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Saturday, 25 April 2015

Verse

Part V of the 2015 A-Z Blogging Challenge

This is mainly for all the people reading this who live outside of Australia. Today (April 25) is ANZAC day. ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corp. We dedicate the day towards remembering all those who have served, suffered and died in the service of their country. The date itself is significant because it marked the first day of the Battle of Gallipoli, which was by far the most dark and devastating battle in Australia's history.

This year is the hundredth anniversary of that day. And I'm currently filled with endless amounts of patriotism. I woke up at 4:30 to attend the dawn service in the city, standing in front of the enormous South Australian War Memorial with thousands of others who share the same pride. There were closer services I could have gone to - one just 2 kilometers from my house. But I was swept up in the occasion and felt I had to do it properly.



One thing I've always admired about America is that they do patriotism better than anyone else. Their national anthem is so beautiful it sends a chill down my spine, as opposed to ours, which I find boring and archaic. But ANZAC Day is the day where we do patriotism right. Unlike Australia Day, where most people just take the excuse to get drunk or go to the beach (or both), people on ANZAC Day genuinely, respectfully reflect on how lucky they are to be living in this rich, free, loving country.

There's a particular ritual that happens during ANZAC Day celebrations that inspires this sense of pride. First the reciting of the Ode of Remeberance, a poem first published in 1914, as the first Great War was getting close. A member of the armed forces will stand in front of the congregation and recite verse 4 of the poem, a verse that practically every Australian knows by heart.

They shall grow not old, as we who are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun, and in the morning
We will remember them.

The crowd repeats this last line, then a bugler will play The Last Post. The Last Post is a tune that the British Army would play to signal the end of a day or at the end of a battle to assure the wounded that it was safe to find their way home. It's a beautiful tune that gives me that same chill as the American national anthem.


It's particularly that last note that gets me. It leaves a question in the air, as if there's unfinished business. As if it will never be finished. It's a note of melancholy.

The Last Post is followed by a minute's silence, and ended with the speaker reciting the final line, Lest we forget. The bigger the crowd is, the more amazing the feeling is of being a part of it. It's now tradition for there to be an Aussie Rules football match between two of the country's biggest football clubs, Essendon and Collingwood. It's the biggest game of the year outside of the grand final and consistently gets 95-100 thousand spectators at the ground each year. I've never been, but just watching it on TV gives you an electric feeling.


Standing out in the cold at 6:15 this morning was one of the most peaceful experiences I've ever had. Everywhere I looked, the things I saw made me smile. Mothers and fathers were holding their kids, who seemed to have gotten the message that this was a time to be quiet and respectful. One little girl tried to stand up on a platform and slipped. A stranger caught her before she hit the ground and not only was her father grateful, but the little girl also looked as if she understood what she'd just been saved from. Someone dropped something and four people bent down to pick it up. People everywhere were wearing the medals that their parents and grandparents had won during service. And retired veterans hobbled around in their perfectly-kept uniforms, commanding nothing but dignity and respect from those around them. For just one day a year, practically all of Australia achieves that state of perfect harmony that everyone talks about. And the interesting thing is that it was borne out of literally the lowest, darkest moment in Australian history. Exactly 100 years ago today, Australia - a country that was really only 14 years old - suddenly grew up and became an adult. Since then, we've paid our respects to the people who sacrificed their own lives to make ours what it is today. It's why we all know that one verse off by heart...

At the going down of the sun, and in the morning,
We will remember them.
Lest we forget.


18 comments:

  1. Paying respects should always be done indeed. Never even knew there was such a day in Australia. America sure has the patriotism thing down, although sometimes too much can leave one blind.

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    1. Well it's interesting, because plenty of Americans criticise their county, but you give them an option to live in any other country and they'll say "Are you kidding? No way!"

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    2. I'd probably rather live in Australia. (Maybe. I'd have to do the research to know. But all my family and friends are here. There's a whole "other" truth about America that even very, very few Americans know about. To discover the "hidden" truth one would have to do the research first ... and lots of it! A couple decades worth. Most are too busy watching TV.)

      ~ D-FensDogG
      'Loyal American... UNDERGROUND'

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    3. Well if you've got family here, that's a different story. Although Australia does often feature at the top of "best places to live" lists, which I'm happy about ;)

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  2. Good for you for participating in this important anniversary. I know that the WWI battle of Gallipoli represents to Australians the same thing that the WWI battle of Vimy Ridge represents to Canadians -- the start of our truly independent nationhood separate from Britain -- a terrible baptism of fire marking the birth of a country, not a colony.

    Lest We Forget.

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    1. I'll need to look up Vimy Ridge, I've never heard of it. Canada and Australia are alike in so many ways :)

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  3. Sounds like an amazing ceremony, Michael. And you're right about America as well as the Last Post. Most free countries could do with a little more patriotism and appreciation for what they enjoy.

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    1. I've heard accounts of how people in places like France complain bitterly about how awful their country is. It's an unfortunate way to be.

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  4. Yes, amazing ceremony and glad you got up early to attend. Honoring those who've served and your country is a duty and a privilege.

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    1. There are always critics. I think those critics miss the point that we're not glorifying or celebrating war. We're commemorating the people who lost their lives because of it.

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  5. That does sound pretty cool! On Memorial Day we would go to a park here called Memorial Park. They had speakers, and one really cool event - troops would parachute down out of planes. My boys loved watching it! It's been a few yrs. since we've gone. Isaak's birthday is so close to Memorial Day, that we often all get together for his birthday on that day. Most everyone gets that day off.

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    1. Hahaha that's lucky for Isaak, getting a national holiday for his birthday ;) Trust America to make such big awesome displays on their military holidays ;)

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  6. Good for you attending this event and doing it up right. Patriotism helps us give respect to those to whom it is due and gives us pride in our country and our history.

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    1. National pride is important, as long as it doesn't turn into one-eyed fanaticism.

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  7. Surprisingly, there are a lot of people who believe that the US should replace the national anthem. I'm not one of them.

    Happy ANZAC Day, anyway

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    1. Oh, I didn't know that. Why don't they like it? What do they want to replace it with?

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    2. They don't like it because it's hard to sing and is too war-oriented, where they feel it should be serene and almost sacred, kind of like "America The Beautiful" (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LINsNCaxZ5U). "The Star-Spangled Banner"'s melody was taken from a song called "To Anacreon In Heaven" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/To_Anacreon_in_Heaven) and requires a vocal range of an octave and a fifth, and the lyrics were taken from the poem "The Defense of Fort McHenry" by Francis Scott Key (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Star-Spangled_Banner), making the National Anthem a war poem set to a drinking song. Maybe that's why I like it...

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    3. Well it's not surprising that some people are put of by its grounding in war, but I personally love the imagery of the flag standing and waving as a symbol of freedom while the bombs go off all around it. Having said that, I should acknowledge that what I like doesn't count for much in that debate :P

      As for the degree of difficulty... well, one of the things I don't like about our own anthem is that it seems bland and devoid of passion. I'd rather have one that's harder and more interesting.

      Maybe we should swap!

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