Sunday, 3 August 2014

War and Peace

This is a kind of interlude post - a ramble on today's events, before I move into a new series.

Today is the centenary of World War One. The New Zealand Government has poured a great deal of money into its commemoration, funding special exhibitions at Te Papa (the Museum of New Zealand), parades, fly-overs and other state occasions.

My grandfather served in World War One, but not as a combatant. Rather, he went as a conscientious objector - as a stretcher bearer.  Twenty-three when he was called up, he would not fight. Deeply religious, he followed the Bible. And the Bible said - 'You shall not kill.'

I think he would absolutely hate that state money is being spent on commemorating the blood-bath of WW1. I'm sure he would rather that the funding went to schools, hospitals, refugee re-settlement. My uncle, now in a rest home, told my father off for purchasing and wearing a poppy. 'Dad would be turning in his grave to see you wearing that.' It was kind of amusing to see my father look abashed.

Granddad was brave, so brave. At night he stood on the deck of the troop ship, watching the Southern Cross slip below the horizon and wondering would he ever see it again. Yet the other men that went, the men and women who fought and died only because their country demanded it - they were brave, too.

My father wrote a story about his father for my son - which sounds complicated, but really isn't - and I adapted it and sent it to the School Journal. It was published as a short story in 2012, and it's kind of cool to see children reading it and commenting on it online. A refreshing counterweight to the heroic commemorations funded by the state.

You can access teacher notes for this story here: Silas the Stretcher Bearer

When I hear of the conflicts in Gaza, in the Ukraine, in Sudan, I wish there were more people in the world like my Grandad.

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