12 November 2010
11th hour on the 11th day
Today 11th November was one of those days when I felt very proud to be British.
Wearing a poppy in my jacket lapel (purchased via the British Embassy), it was a symbol of 'something'. I say 'something', because the majority of Ukrainains have no idea why a foreign man would want to wear a 'flower' and a paper one at that while walking around the city even conducting formal business meetings with said paper flower in lapel.
I was happy to explain to the many people who enquired why I was sporting this 'flower'.
Different culture, different reasons. One man brought me down to earth when he asked (and I think he already knew the answer) 'How many British soldiers died in the 'Great Patriot War'
(aka - World War II) and for that matter how many in the First World War.
I had to point out that I knew full well that the Soviet Union had suffered far many more millions in dead soldiers than the British. BUT, numbers is not what its all about.
I also took great pride in explaining our Royal British Legion system and how the money raised via charity would be used to good effect. As usual the stories of how Ukrainains would NEVER trust anyone who raised money for charity knowing that the money would never get to the correct people was as normal.
But in the United Kingdom thats another thing we can be proud of. We can usually count of any money raised for a good cause WILL get through to where it needs to be.
The 11th of November will also be a day to remember those who have given their lives in the name of freedom and democracy. Not just in the two World Wars but also the Falklands conflict, Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan and any others I have forgotten.
As a child I grew up around men who had fought as soldiers in World War 2 and I remember listening to the real life stories at first hand as to what they did during those difficult times.
As children we took it for granted that almost all the men in our village had been involved in the war. I remember our next door neighbour was a man who had been shot in the legs during the war in Burma. I also remember the sad situation of children at our school sometimes mocking the man who walked past our school everyday who obviously suffered from 'shell shock' after the 2nd world war. As children they did not know until the headmaster brought this to everyones attention in assembly the next day. Shame on those kids. It was another part of the learning process and the horrors of war.
I have celebrated the 11th November in many ways, first as a child, then later as a boy soldier at the age of 16 and then as an adult soldier on many occasions. There are certain things that only the British can do well and the remembrance day ceremony at the cenotaph in Whitehall in London is one of those ocassions which you know is very much a British thing.
However, we all know that people who choose to live in Britain are very lucky in that they are provided with something called' freedom of expression'. The freedom and ability to say what you want without fear of any actions from the state.
Well today in London we saw people of 'Muslim' faith exercising that freedom by claiming that 'British Soldiers Burn in Hell'. Under British laws they have every right to express their opinions.
(God only knows how they would get away with this in any other country). But this kind of action from people who set out to upset the British public are a great cause for concern. If the famously passive great British public decide to rise up against the Muslim community in England please do not be surprised by their actions. I for one would not be.
Perhaps the British public need to wake up and think..'What makes us great any longer?'
See Daily Mail story