We promise the dead that we won’t forget them or their sacrifice.
These words that seemed so hollow for so long suddenly have life breathed into them by the shared sacrifice of this pandemic. The very freedoms and civil liberties that were the fruit of armed engagement from our history have been taken from us with the speed of the Spanish Flu epidemic that followed the slaughter of the First World War.
In this moment we seek the courage of our forebears as the fabric of normal is ripped asunder. Normally ANZAC Day is for me a solemn promise from this generation to the next that we will never waste their lives with the ease we threw generations into the mincer of war, but under a pandemic lockdown it is the need to know the journey we walk now was one already trailblazed by our collective Whakapapa.
History is always watching.
Kia Kaha New Zealand.
The Gunner’s Lament
A Maori gunner lay dying
In a paddyfield north of Saigon,
And he said to his pakeha cobber,
“I reckon I’ve had it, man!
‘And if I could fly like a bird
To my old granny’s whare
A truck and a winch would never drag
Me back to the Army.
‘A coat and a cap and a well-paid job
Looked better than shovelling metal,
And they told me that Te Rauparaha
Would have fought in the Vietnam battle.
‘On my last leave the town swung round
Like a bucket full of eels.
The girls liked the uniform
And I liked the girls.
‘Like a bullock to the abattoirs
In the name of liberty
They flew me with a hangover
Across the Tasman Sea,
‘And what I found in Vietnam
Was mud and blood and fire,
With the Yanks and the Reds taking turns
At murdering the poor.
‘And I saw the reason for it
In a Viet Cong’s blazing eyes –
We fought for the crops of kumara
And they are fighting for the rice.
‘So go tell my sweetheart
To get another boy
Who’ll cuddle her and marry her
And laugh when the bugles blow,
‘And tell my youngest brother
He can have my shotgun
To fire at the ducks on the big lagoon,
But not to aim it at a man,
‘And tell my granny to wear black
And carry a willow leaf,
Because the kid she kept from the cold
Has eaten a dead man’s loaf.
‘And go and tell Keith Holyoake
Sitting in Wellington,
However long he scrubs his hands
He’ll never get them clean.’
James K Baxter
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