War is nothing to celebrate; it is the product of forgetting a common humanity, represents the very worst aspects of humanity and is responsible for the darkest chapters of our history.
ANZAC Day has come to mean many things since its humble beginnings. For many it has become a de-facto national day; a day when people, some draped in Australian flags, speak proudly of the intrinsic characteristics of what it is to be Australian. For companies it too often has become a carnival of commercialism to fill that quiet period between Easter and Mothers Day. Shelves are packed with trinkets, food and clothing having only the most tenuous links to Gallipoli or to the war. For politicians it has become a day to fuel the narratives that may one day come in handy, narratives about sacrifice and national good, neither of which sits comfortably with the reality of the First World War, or indeed many armed conflicts since. Some go so far now as to spin Gallipoli as a victory, forged in defeat.
ANZAC Day should not be a de-facto national day. Contrary to popular narratives Gallipoli was not a baptism of a young nation nor was the First World War a time when Australia forged an independent identity. By all means let us recognise those admirable qualities such as selflessness and mateship, but let us not claim a monopoly on them, for those who were once our foes can lay claim to them as well.
ANZAC Day should not be about rampant commercialism. To make shallow profit from the loss of those who paid the ultimate price is repugnant. To sell it is to diminish the integrity of your brand; to buy it is to diminish the value of this day and what it should stand for.
ANZAC Day should not be about creating narratives for a nation that are not true to history or are clouded by ideology and politics. To do so is to rob ANZAC Day of its most important value to future generations, the lessons about the inhumanity and grave cost of war.
The true meaning of ANZAC Day should be reflection. Reflect on the sons and daughters who never went home from war; reflect on those who did but for whom the horror filled memories of war forever shadowed them, as they do the veterans of modern conflicts. Reflect on the civilians whose lives were lost not in willing service, but in mere circumstance. Reflect on the fact that those in the trenches at Gallipoli in 1915 shared a common humanity and that on both sides there are individual stories worthy of remembrance and respect.
Lest We Forget.