This might seem irreverent on this day (except in England when the ceremony is held on the nearest Sunday to Armistice Day), but the thought came into my mind over the past few days on seeing this cartoon and considering what we have been doing every Remembrance Day since 1918.
We mainly remember those who fell in the 1914-18 Great War, those killed in the trenches and sent to charge into machine gun fire in the Somme, Verdun, Ypres and all along the north-east front of France and Flanders. We also remember the fallen of World War II, the almost 50% of men lost on D-Day alone on the Normandy beaches. We remember the victims of the Holocaust, the civilian victims killed by bombs in cities, the many Résistance fighters tortured and killed by the Gestapo. War is a time of great heroism, but also great tragedy for human civilisation.
Thinking of the cartoon, we pray not only for those who were killed, but also for those whom war left alive but maimed. The Gueules Cassées fill us with horror, and we only have the small consolation of knowing that none of them are alive today. Not only were men mutilated physically but also spiritually and mentally. Many lived horrible lives with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or “shell shock” as they once called it. And it still happens!
War is not glorious! The Mark of Cain about British soldiers in Irak is one of the most powerful films I have seen recently. It is harrowing…
We see how men go down to the abyss of bestiality and atrocities. They were not men of the “other side” or the “Jerries” but our own. We see the worst of human nature in this film, the way a young working class boy ends up committing the same evil as an SS guard in a concentration camp. It is difficult for any of us to imagine ourselves go down this road! We rejoice in the way the Russians are bombing the hell out of the ISIS terrorists, but those men were also once little babies in the arms of their mothers.
The world seems again to be on the way to war and the ultimate horror of nearly all of us dying a lingering death from radiation poisoning. May God have mercy on us and give us the grace of conversion and averting this horror.
Indeed, we will remember them, but in more ways than we are used to.