This year the celebration of Anzac Day will be muted. No marches, no large reunions, few speeches at war memorials, but soldiers and others who lost their lives in war will be remembered, writes Fr Andrew Hamilton SJ. Source: Eureka Street.
Indeed, the celebration will perhaps speak more eloquently because of its simplicity.
In recent years the rhetoric surrounding Anzac Day has become overblown. The day has been depicted as a symbol of Australian power and military prowess, and so of the distinctive qualities of Australian citizens. It has invested contemporary Australians and their leaders with unearned qualities built on make-believe.
The construction of Anzac Day as a celebration of an imagined heroic Australian identity obscures the death and loss both of soldiers and of their relatives and friends, the cost to families and to Australian society of their loss, and the responsibility of their descendants to turn from war.
This year the backdrop against which Anzac Day will be seen will not show idealised figures in warlike poses or sportsmen looking mean, but people who have lost life and livings, first to bushfires and now to the coronavirus.
In just a few months we have seen the reality of bushfire with its devastation of forests and impoverishment of local people in the areas that it touched.
And we have seen the cost that fire and sickness have brought to many individuals and the strain they have placed on communities.
We have seen our leaders aimless in the face of fire and, like the rest of us, struggling to comprehend the COVID-19 pandemic, and the vulnerability of an economy built on debt. We have also seen them at their best as they jettisoned their fixed ideas to respond in order to address the threat to the community posed by the virus.
Above all we have seen the courage and generosity of many Australians, their willingness to sacrifice their own freedom of movement and financial security for the good of the community. These are not narrowly national qualities. They reflect the best of our shared humanity.
When seen against the events of the year, Anzac Day will be a calling to mind of things past, things present and things future.
Fr Andrew Hamilton SJ is consulting editor of Eureka Street.
A modest and muted Anzac Day (Eureka Street)