Dunedin, New Zealand, my city - my people

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Anzac Day reflections.

The name plaque where Dad and Mum's ashes were buried.
Dad bought me an old second hand bike when I was nine years old.  Its his fault I still enjoy biking.
These people too are part of who I am.
 Search for ways of peace
I have an ambivalent feeling about Anzac Day. Don’t get me wrong I recognise the commitment and sacrifice made by those who went to serve overseas and those who gave their lives. My dad went overseas just after he got married. He was away at war four years, serving in the desert and in Italy.  He ended up in the highest non-commissioned officer’s rank. Shortly after he left for war my mother gave birth to her first child who never survived the birth. I cannot conceive what it would have been like for them as a young married couple to be separated for so long, to live with the tension of possibly being a casualty and then to re-establish a relationship when Dad probably came home a very different person.

My ambivalence is that the older I get the more I hate and despise war! I believe that there MUST be better ways to sort out issues. I have talked with people from the middle east and have heard how many of the terrible events in that area are a result of decisions made after those conflicts. The more wars I hear about the more I see that the troubles do not stop when the fighting finishes. There seems always to be ongoing sad consequences for generations after. I get a bit fearful that the way we mark Anzac day tends to glorify war. If it is ever justified, it must be the last resort. I am convinced that more effort, thought and money should be put into ways of peace. 

My Anzac Day thanksgiving
I spent a lot of Anzac day still sorting out the mess we made in the backyard and workshop while renovating the bathroom. I has become one of my Anzac Day traditions to hop on my bike and ride out to the Andersons Bay cemetery visit my parents’ plaque and look briefly at the rest of the cemetery. I mentioned this to a friend and he said that such visits were not part of his routine, reminding me that they, my parents, were not there at the cemetery. I can understand his position, which basically is where I am at too. But I visit the cemetery to remind myself that I am not a self-made man. My parents brought me up. My Dad, a plumber, lived such a good life that his example still challenges me and calls me to be a better person.  My mother and I often clashed, but she gave herself completely to her task as a mother. She was left a widow in her early 40’s and had a tremendous task to guide her five children to adulthood.  I am who I am because they fulfilled their role as parents and people diligently. But while at the cemetery I look at other rows of gravestones and recognise we have the community we have, because these people lived the lives they did. They contributed to my life to. So on Anzac day I do not just remember soldiers, but I remember ancestors who contributed to who we are today. I take a little time out to say “thanks”. 

My Anzac day challenge.
Years ago I took my oldest son to schoolboy cricket. I mentioned to the coach that I was going to the game if anyone needed transport. He gave me a gear bag and another team and asked me to take them to their game and coach them. I did this and for seven years after that I coached the section two team at schoolboy cricket at North East Valley. I was not a good cricketer at school though I enjoyed the game. I should not have been coaching those kids! But they kept telling me “Parents will just not volunteer. We can’t get a suitable coach.”  I was deeply involved in Habitat for Humanity. We sometimes had great volunteers, but often it was the same small crew every Saturday, week in and week out. I am on the night shelter trust in Dunedin. We have tried to get a good number of volunteers to help run the shelter. I guess my challenge to all the people who front up to Anzac ceremonies, the service people you remember served their community and their country. It cost them heaps. There are heaps of groups and causes who are crying out for volunteers. Follow their example and where you can and how you can serve your community as a volunteer. Anzac day, reminds us of people who served and the ongoing need for all of us to serve in our community. 


Keith Harris said...

I don't think the burgeoning popularity of Anzac Day is indicative of a fascination with or glorification of war. It seems to me that Anzac Day fills a need for a national day on which we celebrate our origins and history. The yearly protests and agro that surround Waitangi Day have alienated mainstream New Zealand from the idea of celebration of our nationhood on that day and there has been a spontaneous move to Anzac Day as a substitute. That the revival has been spontaneous rather than politically led makes it all the more laubible.

Dave Brown said...

I agree... I think we lack a "New Zealand day" and Anzac has become that. I would love for some creative things to be done around that celebrating NZ's positives.