Friday, April 25, 2008

Two Kinds of Courage.

Anzac Day is here again. It is a day that always affects me emotionally. Just to hear the Last Post is enough to start the tears welling.

This year I have been thinking about the courage it took to live during the time of war and I can see two kinds of courage that stand out.

The first kind of courage is that of the young men going off to war. Imagine the fear they must have felt, not knowing what pain and injury they might face, nor whether they would ever come home again. Imagine the courage it took for their families to keep going day by day, waiting for news of their sons and brothers. This is the stuff of the Anzac legend that we remember and respect today.

The second kind of courage that I have been thinking about is that of the men who resisted the call to war. They objected to war for many reasons from political to religious and they chose to live by their beliefs. It takes a lot of courage to fly in the face of popular opinion and to stick with your beliefs. Regardless of whether you agree with their stance you would have to commend their courage.

These are the men who were called cowards, and were given white feathers. It wasn’t fear that held them back because many suffered torture and imprisonment as they refused to fight. These people knew the consequences but refused anyway.

Not every objector was able to avoid war. Some were sent to fight anyway and, during WW1, some were given the horrible punishment of being tied to a stake in the open in the middle of the fighting.( ) Can you imagine holding onto your principles in the face of this degree of punishment?

Being a conscientious objector was slightly more acceptable to society by the time of the Vietnam War, when public opinion about war was quite divided. Objectors were still jailed for their beliefs, though there seems to be no real lasting social consequences. It might be a good idea, though, to avoid the local RSL.

So where do conscientious objectors fit in on Anzac Day? Mention Anzacs and ‘conchies’ in the same sentence and it still provokes a heatedly divided response. Objectors suffered as the rest of the population did with the loss of friends or family members. In addition they lost their lifestyles, jobs and reputations. They had to watch their families dealing with the social consequences of their objections. They admire the Anzac spirit of mateship and courage as we do, despite not being part of it. It is hard to say that Anzac Day applies to all Australians except the objectors.

Perhaps it is time we acknowledged and respected both kinds of courage. Each form of courage highlights the strength of the other. Regardless which side of the fence you sit, there are no winners when it comes to war.

Anzac Day – Lest We Forget.


Lilly's Life said...

Wow that was an amazingingly well written post and a wonderful tribute. You have a great blog and I will be back.

Anne said...

Thank you for dropping by. I appreciate your feedback. This kind of post can be quite upsetting for some people but the thoughts had been in my head for some time. I am glad they are out now. Off to visit your blog, now.

baby~amore' said...

I agree with Lilly and what you said ...thought provoking. I can imagine that many men had honourable objections and were not cowards but branded thus anyway.

Yes there are no winners in war ... every man that died on either side was someone's son, brother,uncle, father and loved.

Anonymous said...

I've served quite a few years in uniform. Experienced some 'interesting' circumstances in it too... and ANZAC Day is a 'Holy' Day in the life of a uniformed person (currently serving or otherwise).

When I was younger, I never applied that much thought to the lot of someone, who actively chose not to take part in the business end of 'war'. It's hard to do this from that uniformed perspective... you're in it up to your neck, and this sort of situation doesn't lend itself to being all that subjective about such things.

You share your life with those people who would lay down their lives for you; a mate, who's back they've got 24 hours a day - 7 days a week. It's hard to get past this part of Defence Force life, and consider the lot of others.

That's not to say I've never appreciated a person's courage in standing by their decisions. I admire ANY person who stands up and owns their actions and choices in life, more so if they've made such decisions with careful deliberation regarding the facts and circumstances.

Those who do so for their own bits and pieces, and stand fairly by their own principles SHOULD be admired. Those who follow blindly because their a bandwagon available, I struggle to give thought too... it's very easy to let other's do your thinking for you.

I've sat and yarned about these things with people many times - sometimes on ANZAC Day, sometimes in other odd places when people find out that I once wore a uniform (two in fact lol)... and really it comes down to the old "each to his/her own" business. Some have one direction to take in life, some the other - and really - what does it all matter?

It's not my place to judge a person on the decisions they make. It's up to the individual I reckon - and my hat off to you if you 'stand by your guns' so to speak, because as mentioned here, courage comes in so many guises... and sometimes it simply takes us time to come to terms with these things.

Thanks for such a thought provoking post... much appreciated. ;-)

Anne said...

Thank you for your comments, baby-amore. I agree totally. If we could only find another way of resolving these situations that didn't involve killing each other.

Anne said...

Belongum, that is a great and thoughtful comment. When it comes to war there is no grey area is there? You either go or you don't, for whatever reason. I, too, admire people who stand up for their beliefs even if I don't agree with them. Living with the fallout from the decision is just as difficult as standing up for it in the first place.

Thank you for dropping by and taking the time to post.