The desecration of the Haunting Soldier at the weekend was yet another pathetic republican attempt at attacking the changing narrative on remembering the Great War in Ireland. The sculpture was created to "evoke the fragility and suffering of those who returned to an uncertain future". In no way was this an imperialist piece or a piece glorifying war but that didn't stop the brainless thugs pouring paint over it. They only see the Brit uniform. This brings into sharp focus our culture of remembrance. Why do we remember? And how should we remember?
Remembering is a simple task for me. I eschew the cenotaphs in November and instead visit the grave of my best mate who was murdered in 1990 to lay flowers and let his sons know that he is not forgotten. Watching ranks of old men with medals and the great and the good beside them at cenotaphs doesn't sit well with me. Not all wars are just wars and not all soldiers are good people after all. Not that I am against formal acts of remembrance, its just not for me. But I do believe that it is right that we should remember our war dead. The ordinary soldiers that join up to kill or be killed. War is hell and those that we as a society or country put through that hell deserve to be remembered. It also serves as a reminder to our politicians to think carefully before sending young people to fight.
Anthony McIntyre in a comment under another article made the point that the men of the Great War fought in an imperialist war and that the Dublin government should "state clearly that the war was wrong". This misses the point. It doesn't matter what war it was, hindsight has 20/20 vision, all should be remembered. Was the Falklands war an imperialist war or was it fought to free the islanders from a fascist invasion? It doesn't matter, ordinary working class men died doing their duty. They deserve to be remembered regardless of the rights and wrongs of the war.
I don't see what problem republicans have with this concept. Republicans believe the Troubles was a just conflict. The Dublin government has repeatedly stated that that "war" was wrong yet they remember all of their war dead. Recently we had the very public remembering of Vol Begley who carried a short fuse smoker into a busy shopping street on a Saturday afternoon. He knew what he was doing, that there would be innocents killed as collateral damage to his intended target and that there would be terrible revenge on his own community yet he still went ahead. He deserves to be remembered by his colleagues (though not so publicly on such a sensitive day) and is remembered. For the vast majority of people that was an evil act in an evil sectarian feud yet Begley still should be remembered by his colleagues and those that sent him.
The Great war was an awful war. Fought for no good reason and with horrific outcomes for all who fought. I studied Wilfred Owen and Seigfried Sassoon for O level and still regularly read their great works like Owen's Dulce et decorum est and Sassoon's beautiful Everyone Sang. I heartily recommend you check them out online. The war poets perfectly capture the futility of war. Owen was killed just hours before the Armistice. This is why we should remember, lest we forget, the gravity of sending men to war and the lives lost.