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The rainstorm of almost tropical ferocity which swept across West Suffolk yesterday afternoon (28 June) was dying down as we assembled for a silent Peace Vigil to mark Armed Forces Day. But the distant thundery grumbles seemed – at the risk of being mocked for the use of Pathetic Fallacy – to be a reminder of the persistence and ubiquity of strife.
Consider these two excerpts: “Writing for the religious website Ekklesia, Jill Segger explained why good people must not show solidarity with ex-servicemen and women.” and “The brutalising experiences of combat lead many to harm themselves and others when they return to civilian life. These people deserve our compassion and support.”
“The English the English the English are best, I wouldn't give tuppence for all of the rest”. It seems that the spirit of Flanders and Swann's 'Song of Patriotic Prejudice' took possession of David Cameron during the G20 meeting in St Petersburg last week. It is a pity he was not capable of sharing its tongue-in-cheek take on national braggadocio.
What should be the relationship between a democratic state and its armed forces? It is easier for politicians to play to popular sentiment about “our boys” than to address the moral and constitutional issues.
Eighty years ago, the conflict in Libya would have been glossed over as a “quarrel in a far away country between people of whom we know nothing”. In an age of 24 hour news and of media conscious politicians, we are saturated with images, comment and spin. It is essential to be vigilant about the relationship between the authorised version, what its presentation really tells us and – not least – our own responses to it.
Irrespective of what we think of the presence of British troops in Iraq, the plight of those who have worked as translators and assistants is a matter of serious concern.