You made a few remarks on twitter today that come close to being pretty spot on. Close but not quite, and by missing the mark you fucked up in a sensational fashion and made a total dripping twat of yourself.
Before we get to those remarks I’d like to explain something of myself, and of my Grandfather. Grandpa (as I called him) fought in WWII. He’s not alive to ask now whether he was conscripted or a volunteer, but given the views of war he shared with me as a young child, I would tend to go with the former. The treatment he received at the hands of the British military, and the fact that he was deployed in the South Pacific would further support this conclusion. The Brass in Britain viewed all Australians as cannon fodder, and reserved particular contempt for conscripts – for reasons I imagine you can fathom.
Grandpa was a POW twice during his service. Both times as a result of the incompetence, or perhaps disdain of the British High Command. The first period of incarceration he suffered was served constructing the Burma railway. I hope you’ve heard of that. My grandmother once passed on a tale of that time he had shared with her, when he had placed his leg across a tree trunk and tried to gather the courage to cut his foot off with the machete he had been supplied to clear scrub. He reasoned (apparently) that he would probably bleed to death or be shot. Either way he would be spared the agony he was enduring at the hands of his captors.
Turns in the fortunes of the war led to his liberation. Was he shipped home immediately and given the support any victim of such trauma should receive? No. He was redeployed to the front line, recaptured shortly thereafter and shipped to Japan, just outside of Nagasaki. Have you heard of the place? I hear it is quite beautiful now.
Grandpa served out the rest of the war there as a prisoner. He didn’t speak much about the conditions to me (I was only a child after all), but he did confide that sometimes he felt guilty that he came home, when many of his friends did not. He was freed for the second time after the US dropped a couple of pretty nasty bombs on a bunch of civilians in two cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Did I mention Nagasaki? Apparently it’s a lovely spot to visit. Japan’s unconditional surrender included the immediate release of all prisoners of war. Grandpa was immediately airlifted out of the country and brought home to receive the care that had been denied him the first time, right? No. He and other recently released prisoners were regrouped and sent to reconnoitre the city – namely Nagasaki. I might have mentioned it.
Three days after the city was destroyed by the first ever deployment of atomic weaponry my grandfather was sent to walk through the moonscape of total destruction and ash-corpses so that some generals in England could pat themselves (and the Americans) on the back for a job well done. Of all he lived through in the previous three years, it was this that killed him. He died painfully and with little dignity of radiation sickness when I was young – his body literally a mass of cancer. 4 Corners even featured him in an episode on the subject many years ago, though I was too young to understand it when it went to air.
I never once heard Grandpa say a bad word toward his captors. In fact he taught me rudimentary Japanese and referred to them often as a noble and honourable race. He would not abide racism of any kind in his house, nor any form of mistreatment of women (perhaps due to things he had seen, I don’t know). I have personally seen him hand bank notes to vagrants, and on one occasion I can remember he invited one to dine with us while on our way to a Chinese restaurant. I once saw him intervene in a domestic dispute on the street and pin a man at most half his age to a wall by the back of the neck. It is because of him, more than any other person in my life, that I today detest racism, nationalism (much the same thing) and all forms of testosterone driven destruction.
I understand where you’re coming from, Catherine. I really do. The whole glorification of war thing? I’m with you all the way. The heinous abuse of women & children? Yup. You’ve got me there too. Telling me that “Men only enlisted to fight for the money, for the adventure or because they were racist”? Fuck off. Even if they did enlist willingly for the reasons you claim, they had no idea of the horror they would face and the hardships they would endure. Get over your misguided sense of self importance that you get the comfort of experiencing from home, behind your noble keyboard. And while you’re at it, learn something of the suffering many, many men endured. You dishonour them and you degrade yourself.
PS. Happy ANZAC day. I won’t be waving a flag, but I won’t be acting like a fuckwit about it either.