11 November 2014

47 – They Were The Super Heroes

Today is November 11th. Today lots of people in different countries will pay tribute to men and women who did military service in times of war. And that got me thinking about why we should remember them. So I decided to write about that.

When we’re asked to remember on November 11th, most of us simply do it without question. We wear poppies on our coats or hats. We observe moments of silence at the eleventh hour. We attend ceremonies at war memorials where wreaths are laid. And we listen to politicians give speeches filled with inspiring buzzwords but without genuine heart.

Honouring people or events that deserve it is a proper thing. But it’s worth asking some questions: what are we actually honouring? Why are we remembering?

We’re certainly not commemorating the act of war. It’s an absurd and terrible course of action. The renowned military theorist Carl von Clausewitz famously wrote that warfare “is merely the continuation of politics by other means.” In that case, war is the human circus logically taken to its illogical extreme.

But that’s about enough on politics and war from me. I’ve got better things to do then rant about the politics and media and spin of The World. I’d rather use my words on people who deserve them.

On November 11th I don’t honour the countries that men and women fought for. I don’t think about the politicians and bureaucrats whose policies sent people away from their homes to fight and die. I don’t listen to the speeches given by politicians and public figures on November 11th either. They’re the direct descendants of the Piggies who created the wars to begin with.

I don’t think much of people who make others slog through shit because they don't want to get their own hands dirty. I think even less of planners and talkers. And politicians and bureaucrats (with some exceptions) tend to be both. A wise man once said that they ain’t worth the blood that runs in their veins. I tend to agree.

I do think highly of doers, however. And that’s what the men and women who we honour on November 11th were.

Our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents were the people who put their heads down and did what needed doing. They were the soldiers who fought, the nurses and surgeons who tried to put the soldiers back together, and the workers and volunteers on the home fronts who worked to keep those soldiers and nurses and surgeons going.

They did the dirty work. And they got their hands dirty doing it. And for that they’re worth every drop of blood that ran through their veins.

Soldiers, nurses and surgeons were put through stresses and hardships that most of us will never know. Soldiers were asked to kill and fight tooth and nail to save themselves from being killed. Nurses and surgeons often risked being blown apart to try and save torn-apart soldiers. There can't be anything more demanding and terrifying than trying to avoid being blown apart or getting ripped to shreds by flying hunks of metal. And this is what the talkers and planners asked our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents to do.

And they did it.

And then they did something even harder. When the wars they served in had ended, those that survived came back home and took off their military uniforms. They put their workboots, aprons, and business suits back on and returned to the offices and garages, kitchens and classrooms, shops and salons, and factories and farms of their chosen professions. They left making war behind to make a living once again.

They parted ways with their bands of brothers and sisters. They returned to their mothers and fathers, their siblings and cousins, and their friends and lovers. And they started families of their own. They left the shedding of blood behind them by giving life and love back to the world through their own sons and daughters.

Our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents came home and did what many of us struggle with under much less severe circumstances. They left hardship and horror behind and tried to lead decent, normal lives. They tried to make peace with themselves and find peace in their own time. They moved on.

Superhero comics became popular in the final years of the Great Depression and during the Second World War. That’s not a coincidence. Superheroes were brought to life through ink and paper, pictures and print. They survive beyond comic books in our imaginations.

Our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents served in that war. They served in other wars too. They exposed themselves to conditions that could shatter a person’s heart, mind and body. They had the balls and the guts to do what most of the ‘great men of history’ could never do.

They risked everything.

We live because our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents endured and moved on from experiences most of us can never understand. It’s simply further evidence that our existence in this universe is an absolute miracle.

We live because they survived. 

Today is November 11th.

They were the Super Heroes.  


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