Editorial: Remembrance and resolutions
I’m not much of a one for the New Year resolutions. I guess old years have taught me how little my resolutions come to. But as the nights draw in on 2017, with its international tensions, violent attacks, economic struggles and political divisions, I do my find myself looking forward to the year turning over a new leaf.
I write this shortly after Remembrance Sunday, an occasion which, by revisiting world wars, always fills me with a sense of how fragile our civilised life of peace and security is. Others see things differently though, and 11 November, being Poland’s independence day, was also the occasion of the largest display of neo-fascism Europe has seen. Warsaw doesn’t need poppies – The Washington Post noted that demonstrators passed buildings still marked with fascist bullets from the Second World War. But the lesson some people learn from them is something rather different from ‘Never again’.
Memories of the Charlottesville rally in August are still fresh, and just as President Trump proved reluctant to criticise his far-right supporters, so Polish government ministers called the Warsaw march ‘beautiful’ and ‘patriotic’ before being persuaded to condemn its white supremacist slogans. The far right seems to be finding its niche in western politics. In Austria, the far-right Freedom Party looks likely to form part of a coalition government.
Throughout my lifetime it has felt as if Europe’s memories of the Second World War were enough to ensure that such times would not come again. But the outbreak of that war was itself proof that you can live through a world war, swear to end all wars and then do the whole thing again 20 years later. Neo-fascism is still very marginal, but there are enough grim ghosts of the 1930s in the streets, for it all to seem bleakly cyclical. ‘History repeats itself,’ in Louis de Bernière’s version of Marx’s quip, ‘first as tragedy, and then again as tragedy.’
Time to turn to Christmas with its prophetic message of hope and angelic message of peace. If that’s a story that we want to hear and believe, how much more is it a story that we need to be telling? If it can overcome stories of fear and hatred, then God help us to speak out and to be heard. You know what, maybe I will manage a New Year’s resolution.
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This article was published in the December 2017/January 2018 edition of Reform