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  1. "...now do Classical Gas"
    Matchbox's Avatar
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    "...now do Classical Gas"
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    #1

    Today

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    It's April 25th. For those who don't know, that means it's Anzac Day, which is sort of a little like your Memorial Day but...also in some ways not. It's hard to explain. As an outsider looking in, new to Australia and with a completely different cultural context around military things, this was something it took me a very long time to fully understand.

    For one thing, there are no flags on Anzac Day. There are no parades in the celebratory sense. No one works, but it's absolutely not in any way a holiday. It's quiet, and contemplative, and a very real way it's deeply sad.

    The key thing to understand, I suppose, is the nature of the date. If you understand why it was chosen, everything else begins to make sense. If you don't, it may feel backwards.

    April 25th is the anniversary of a loss. Not a victory, nor even an armistice, but a terrible, bloody loss that killed thousands and maimed thousands more...for nothing. In 1915, the Allied Command wanted to capture the Dardanelles, in Turkey. The plan was to land in darkness, storm the defences before the Turks could respond and cross the narrow Gallipoli peninsula in less than six weeks. To do this, two small countries - Australia and New Zealand - were supposed to team up and fight together. Neither of them had the means to fight alone, but together they could do it.

    Some idiot misread the map. They landed in the wrong place and were pinned there against cliffs too steep for the artillery horse teams, for eight months. They were torn apart, because someone had fucked up as badly as it's possible to fuck up.

    There would be bigger losses before the First World War ended. There would be much, MUCH bigger ones - the final casualty rate for both countries would be appallingly high, and I have never seen a town in either place that doesn't keep a war memorial...as far as I have ever been able to find out, every town lost someone and realised they would need one for the names of the dead - but this was an early slap in the face, and the knowledge that the whole campaign was an unmitigated disaster from beginning to end, the knowledge that the only thing that went as planned was the decision to leave...

    That set the tone, you see.

    The population in both countries looked at this, and went...Oh my God. We made a terrible mistake. We didn't know what we were asking, and we asked far too much. We're so sorry. We'll remember.

    It's expanded since then. It's no longer that one campaign, nor even that one war. Now it's all of them, for both of us, and there are no flags or parades. Not now, not ever. Instead people get up before dawn, thousands of people do this...and they stand there silently in the dark and the cold and the rain. It's moving. It's unnerving. It is completely, utterly silent.

    We love you. We remember. We'll try to be worthy of what we ask you to endure in our name.

    My older sons were at the Dawn Service this morning with their father. They're furiously proud of him.



    One final point. When the Gallipoli campaign ended, the Turkish commander Mustafa Kemal Ataturk wrote a letter. He had utterly smashed them, he'd pushed the invaders out of his home and into the sea...but still he wrote this letter, addressed to the grieving families of his dead enemies.

    "There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets where they lie side by side here in this country of ours. You, the mothers who sent your sons from far away lands, wipe away your tears. Your sons are lying in our bosom and are in peace. Having lost their lives on this land, they have become our sons as well."

    Memorials were built for Ataturk and his men, right beside and in the same position of honour that the two countries gave to our own. It was the only gesture we could make to repay the general's unexpected kindness, and that sets the tone too.
    If I cannot move heaven, I will raise hell
  2. Regular Member
    anarchamom's Avatar
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    #2
    Beautiful post, and very informative. This is what I think the U.S. Memorial Day should be about - not festivities and barbecues.
  3. d12
    The only substitute for good manners is fast reflexes.
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    #3
    I got chills reading. This is amazing, and sad, and historic. Thank you for the information.
  4. Regular Member
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    #4
    I love that it makes you look inside and be quiet and think.

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