Commemoration, celebration and contrition

Chris Sheedy in Fairfax Media talks to Bishop Tom Frame and Dr Craig Stockings about aspects of how we commemorate death in war.

Stockings refers to ‘the tendency within Australia to selectively package and promote specific elements of the war to serve contemporary needs connected, in some cases, to politics and identity’ .

If we want to start extrapolating various other contemporarily or politically convenient ideas about what it might mean to an Australian today, then to me this is less about commemorating and honouring sacrifice and more about other agendas. It is not necessarily nefarious, but there is politics in it. There is mileage, it seems, in getting contemporary feel-good out of a historical event without being tied too closely to the actual history of that event. (Stockings)

We are sending people to do things that will leave them permanently marked. This is one of the facts we need to bear in mind collectively when we deploy people overseas. If we take just this much on board from the centenary, it will act as a helpful corrective to the tendency towards hubris about what the Australian forces really did during the war, and why we must remember them. (Frame)

16 August 2014

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