Medals and Remembrance: Politicising a sombre occasion - by Ashby councillor Carl Benfield

By Ashby Nub News Reporter

10th Nov 2023 | Local Features

Ashby de la Zouch Town Councillor, Carl Benfield. Photo: Supplied
Ashby de la Zouch Town Councillor, Carl Benfield. Photo: Supplied

Ahead of Sunday's Remembrance Day service, Ashby de la Zouch Town Councillor, Carl Benfield, gives his views on the how the occasion has become 'polticised' in the wake of recent events,

Remembrance Day is a time for us to come together as a nation to honour the sacrifices of those who have served, died or been injured in combat. It is a day to reflect on the cost of war and to recommit ourselves to building a more peaceful world.  

But in recent years, I've been concerned that it has become increasingly politicised, being used to attack those who disagree on a range of issues from foreign policy to social justice.

In the last few days we've seen MPs posing for photos in the Westminster Garden of Remembrance which has held up a mirror to the way in which I have posted on social media in previous years.

The recent vilification of protestors who have called for a ceasefire in the Middle East is another example. While some people may find protesting on Remembrance Day to be distasteful, it is important to remember that the right to protest is one of the freedoms that many of our veterans have fought and died for.

This politicisation of Remembrance Day is a worrying trend. It undermines the solemnity of the occasion and it makes it more difficult for us to unite to mourn our losses and to work towards a better future.

As a local politician, I am aware that I may add fuel to the fire by speaking out about this issue. But I believe that it is important to have the conversation - we need to find a way to reclaim this important occasion for all of us, regardless of our political views.

So how could we do this?  

Let's focus on the victims of war, not the victors. Remembrance Day is not about celebrating military victories or glorification. It is about remembering and honouring those who have been killed or injured in conflict.

Let's be inclusive in our commemorations. It should be a time for all of us to come together, regardless of our background or beliefs. Everyone should feel welcome.

Let's be honest about the cost of war. Remembrance Day is not just about paying our respects to the dead. It is also about reflecting on the human cost of war and the importance of peace.

This weekend, can I encourage everyone to "dial-down" the rhetoric and inflammatory language and spend more time reflecting on the sacrifices of those who have served and died in the service of their country. For my part, I have decided this year not to wear medals or to post military photos. It's not about me after all.

I find this prayer of Sir Francis Drake helpful when I need to think bigger than myself. Whilst in many ways he was not a very nice character, his aspiration could be embraced by us all as we strive for a better world:

Disturb us, Lord, when we are too well pleased with ourselves, 

When our dreams have come true because we have dreamed too little, 

When we arrive safely because we sailed too close to the shore. 

 

Disturb us, Lord, when with the abundance of things we possess, 

We have lost our thirst for the waters of life; 

Having fallen in love with life, we have ceased to dream of eternity, 

And in our efforts to build a new earth, we have allowed our vision of the new Heaven to dim. 

 

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly, to venture on wider seas, 

Where storms will show your mastery; 

Where losing sight of land, we shall find the stars. 

We ask you to push back the horizons of our hopes, 

And to push into the future in strength, courage, hope and love. 

     

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