100 Years on: We Will Remember Them
Volume 56, Number 10, November 2018
We will remember them AS WE go to press we learn that Cambridge University Students’ Union has voted down a proposal to promote this year’s Remembrance Day commemorations, believing that to do so would be to somehow glorify war. Apparently some wonderfully right-on student “activist” instead put forward an amendment calling for references to British veterans, Remembrance Day and poppies all to be removed from the proposal, insisting that the day should instead be used to “reshape remembrance away from the glorification and valorisation of war” because all lives lost and affected by war should be commemorated and the focus shouldn’t just be on British veterans. Apparently. There is, of course, a million and one things I could say to that, but to be honest I can’t really be bothered to dignify the whole stupid argument with a response. I could wax lyrical about the sacrifices of previous generations; I could go on about how the so-called “snowflakes” of today haven’t got a clue about true heroism (not all students should be so condemned of course, after all it was students that proposed the motion for their union to do more to commemorate Remembrance Day in the first place); I could talk about a need for respect, a need for a bit of humility in the face of all that those who have gone before us had to endure; I could rant and rail against the political correctness that seems endemic in our universities today with trigger words, safe spaces and an apparent lack of any sort of ability to face things contrary to the narrow beliefs that are being fostered therein—but I won’t. There is no point. The kind of person who wants to make Remembrance Day, in this year of all years, all cuddly and inclusive, who worries that to stand in silence, head bowed, remembering the fallen is to somehow “glorify war”, wouldn’t listen to me any way. They would stick their fingers in their ears, run off to their designated safe space and proceed to Tweet, Facebook and Instagram about me, telling the other members of their little echo chamber what an awful bully I am. What I will do, however, is say how wonderful it is we live in a country where some silly people with a PC agenda are actually able to give voice to their madness; how fantastic is it that for decades we have had an armed forces that has fought for our freedom, fought for our right to say stupid things, fought for a free press that has, depending on which side of the political divide they are, either roundly condemned the Cambridge students or stayed unusually silent (few media outlets agree with the stance you will, I suspect, be pleased to hear); and I will marvel to think that because of the sacrifices of thousands of young people in years gone by we are able to even have this debate today at all. There will, of course, be those who argue that World War I wasn’t about external threat to this country, that we could have avoided it without too detrimental an effect on our lives and that the sacrifices of that terrible conflict could have been avoided; but to argue thus is to ignore the threats to our allies, to ignore our obligations at the time, to ignore our position in the world in 1914 and even were you to ignore all of that nobody could possibly argue that the sacrifices in the next World War weren’t necessary. There can be no doubt that had our fathers and grandfathers not gone to war in 1939, and prevailed, then those Cambridge students certainly wouldn’t have the rights they do today. But they did, and so they do, and whatever your thoughts on warfare actually are (and in decades at MEDAL NEWS I rarely come across any collector who wants to glorify combat), I know that come November 11 you will join with me in remembering those who paid the ultimate price and if you bother to think about silly snowflakes with their ever-so-right-on causes at all (and I suspect you won’t), then do so with a wry smile and a gladness in your heart that they live in a world where they are able to say what they want, no matter how ridiculous it may seem to the rest of us.
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