Anne Marie Waters
Sunday November 8th 2020
Today is Remembrance Sunday. Today is the day we remember those who died in the military service of Great Britain. It’s always a poignant day and one I’m lucky enough to have spent in great company; I’ve met countless veterans, as well as those still serving, and I believe Remembrance Sunday is as much about thanking and recognising them as showing our unending gratitude to those who went before us.
Like so much else in life at the moment, COVID-19 means we cannot pay our usual respects today. Instead of parades and public expressions of thanks, there is a closed service at the cenotaph. The Royal British Legion announced today:
Owing to the Covid-19 pandemic and in light of the risks posed, the annual Remembrance Sunday March Past the Cenotaph will not take place this year.
We recognise this will be deeply disappointing for all who were due to take part and it is not a step that has been taken lightly. This decision has been taken by the Government based on expert advice to protect the health and well-being of those who would have been travelling to and participating in the event.
For my own part, I’ve been reflecting on what British troops – past and present – might think of the state of our freedoms today.
We are living in a surreal scenario. I saw a meme on social media this week. It was part of a current trend of memes: “how it started, how it’s going”.
The “how it started” of this particular meme showed Boris Johnson, two thumbs up, saying what a great year 2020 was going to be! In the follow-up “how it’s going”, there’s a single sentence: “sitting on a park bench is allowed”. Funny, but very serious – especially if we forget to demand our freedoms back.
Remembrance Sunday is, in part, a tribute to those who fought and died in the Second World War – a conflict still within living memory. The deadliest war to date, the 1939-1945 global conflict killed tens of millions of people.
Life is always complicated, but there are also simplicities, and the premise (from our perspective) of the Second World War was simple; Hitler’s Germany was occupying much of Europe with a brutally oppressive regime. It was also engaged in the industrialised genocide of millions of Jews and others. Fighting Hitler’s Germany was a just war, and those who fought in it – and those who fought for Britain before and after WW2 – did so to prevent our country falling to totalitarianism, in other words, those who fought (and fight) did so in the belief they were doing so for our freedoms. That’s what it comes down to.
Since the end of the Second World War, in an absolutely tragic betrayal, we have steadily lost the very freedoms people believed they were fighting for, particularly in the last couple of decades.
‘Hate’ was subject to legislation by Blair’s Labour government, and it has poisoned us completely. The accusation of ‘hate’ removes people’s basic rights in so many respects – they can lose their job and with it their homes simply for their political beliefs. In another tragic twist, it is usually the people who love Britain that are subject to the accusation.
Furthermore, an accusation of “hate” (or the alternative “racist”) is enough to destroy a person’s life. It has no definition and requires no evidence, and as is always the case with laws like this, it is used for political reasons. The police have openly taken political sides and they show it in how they enforce laws like these. Patriotic defenders of British heritage are branded “far right” and a threat to peace, while communist agitators like Black Lives Matter get free rein to engage in criminal damage and public disorder.
This year has taken things to a whole new level freedom-wise; one featuring advice like ‘sitting on a bench is allowed’.
COVID-19 has brought us to a place that is thoroughly bizarre. Some examples:
- The Home Secretary said on radio that neighbours should not stop and speak to each other in the street (we also can’t sit together at a restaurant)
- Music was restricted to 85 decibels or below to avoid encouraging singing (choir at church not allowed)
- Police closed off parts of supermarkets because they deem some goods to be “non-essential” (a woman is denied tampons at a supermarket in Wales resulting in a Twitter exchange, a clarification and apology. In other words, a farce)
- ‘Track and trace’ in pubs and restaurants makes it nigh-on an administration mission to sit down and get a coffee
- A potentially compulsory vaccine in the near future
- Ban on travel out of Wales!
That’s just a tiny sample. The state has a previously unimaginable level of power over us at this time. It is micro-controlling every aspect of our lives, even when (and if) we can spend time with friends and family and under what conditions.
It’s easy to see this as a temporary situation until the much-lauded vaccine arrives, but that in fact is just the start. Getting our freedoms back when this is over should not be taken for granted. We’ll get some back of course, but freedom of association and assembly is one we should keep a close eye on. The state can easily use a virus as a reason to disallow political gatherings, and we must not get used to this kind of state control (just as we’ve gotten used to seeing the police take sides in demonstrations).
There needs to be a complete wipe-out of ‘hate’ legislation and the creation of a criminal justice system that treats all people the same, and that requires evidence in order to convict a person of a criminal offence.
We also must hold the media to account, and oblige them to tell both sides of a story, and to present the reader or viewer with facts, not poison.
The British troops that fought the Nazis were fighting for Britain’s freedom, fighting so that we would not be controlled by a totalitarian and genocidal regime. It is tragic that these short decades later, those very freedoms should be so eroded.
We have a duty to remember what freedom is, and why it is worth striving for – as people have done for centuries. History proves again and again that we can get our freedoms back, but only if we remember what they are and what their value is. If we fail to remember these, then they did it all for nothing.
Lest we forget.
Anne Marie Waters
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