Sunday 25 April 2010

ANZAC Day '10

It's 9.16, and the old Diggers are marching from the RSL, to the wreath-laying ceremony at the Cenotaph.

It's ANZAC Day, today.

I have mixed feelings about ANZAC Day. I am not much for the "mateship forged on blood-soaked foreign shores" myth. That belongs to another generation. The ones who actually fought. Neither am I one for glorifying the war machine- for a while there, in my 20's I was a card-carrying member of Women Against Rape (In War). The "great sacrifice" confuses me, as does the "fought for our freedom" line of thinking. (But that might have more to do with the fact that Australian History was an elective when I was at school, and the subject "History" was solely focused on British and European schools of thought). The ANZAC march is something that calls me on a completely visceral level, and I am not too sure what it is or why.

But, I defy anyone not to be moved by the image of a single beam of light, and a sole bugler playing "The Last Post". There is something poignant about the simplicity of this ritual.

What I think about during the minute's silence, is the fresh-faced pictures of the young men, who honestly believed they were off on a "lark". Whether that be in Vietnam, or Fromelles or Kabul.

I think about the ages of my children, and the pictures of the reality of Villiers-Breteneux and Rabaul and Mogadishu.

I think about the complete senselessness of battles like Gallipoli, Kokoda and Guadalcanal.

And that's probably it, for me. The sheer senselessness of the whole war caper. Yet, I have the acknowledge, that there is SOMETHING about the whole ANZAC myth that pervades us, culturally. It's why I still cry when I hear Albinoni's "Adagio" (the music played at the end of the movie "Gallipoli"). It's why the simple few lines of "The Ode" leave me trembling.

When I go to War Cemeteries, it's always their ages that upset me the most.

That whoever the were, as young as they were, They died. And I need to, in some way, remember them.

So today, I got up at sparrows, to rug up against the brutal wind coming straight off the sea, and stood with other people of my community, to attend the Dawn Service at Dromana RSL.

And, in true Aussie spirit.. the spirit that speaks to me so much more than the Gallipoli myth, after the Service.. the poignant, visceral, moving, simple but brutal service, we all trooped into the dining room and eat. And laugh. And drink (free beer for breakfast and a not-so-subtle bottle of Bundy doing the rounds). And THAT larrikin spirit, where a profoundly anti-war ageing hippy can sit next to a decorated Navy vet, and his soon-to-join-the Army grandson, eating pretty dodgy eggs, bacon, snags and beans provided by CFA vollies.. THAT is what the "Aussie Spirit" means to me.