CoVID-19 Day 47

It’s 10am and I’m just getting up. Again I had an early night and woke up several times. Hopefully by lying in I can get my body into a more sensible rhythm so that I’m less tired at 8pm and can sleep through.

This must be V.E.ry Good Friday. What’s unique about today is that it combines a bank holiday with a public holiday on a Friday (Good Friday is not a public holiday). Some are organising virtual street parties in that the parties are real but individual and it’s the street that’s virtual. It’s kind of inclusive and divisive because one aspect of it requires an internet connection (that not everyone will have). The other is that everyone won’t be eating from the same table. Maybe this is another example of this crisis highlighting the divisions in our society. We are not the society that had street parties when I was a kid.

Let’s commemorate VE day but what cause is there for celebration?

Celebration of military victories is a mixed bag. Celebrating the Battle of the Boyne, for example, is highly controversial and divisive, VE Day is neither. What can be wrong with celebrating victory in Europe over Fascism? Except I doubt there’ll be much mention of Fascism — that would make the whole thing more reflective rather than celebratory. Whenever Union flags go up nationalism lurks in the wings with focus on the war rather than the peace.

No doubt some will echo the government sentiment of flattening the curve and liken the Coronavirus pandemic to world war just as some charities have liked a condition to an enemy that should be treated with the contempt it deserves. It’s the us and them trope that I find troubling, that we find solace in uniting against a common enemy rather than celebrating universal brotherhood and sisterhood — celebrating peace rather victory through war.

That doesn’t need to be the way we mark this anniversary. But if we are going to talk of defeating Fascism, enjoying 75 years of peace and the heroics of those who selflessly gave their lives, either fatally or otherwise, we owe it to their memory to be honest and at least a little objective.

We should applaud Captain Tom Moore for his noble effort to raise money for an institution his generation gave us but I’m sure he would modestly say that all he did was walk around with his walking frame, it was the people who donated that gave the £25 million. I wouldn’t go so far as to say he shouldn’t have needed to do that. I don’t want to deny him the earned applause. The £25 million he raised is worth far more than the equivalent the government could have given the NHS but in cold hard cash terms its a drop in a bucket. Any government minister who applauds him should be pelted with rotten fruit and veg for their hypocrisy.

I love a celebration where everyone is singing the same tune and dancing to the same beat. Its great when you can drink, chat and joke with people you might otherwise have a really hard time getting on with and I can’t imagine that many Brits were conflicted over the defeat of the Nazis. But we shouldn’t forget, the soldiers didn’t come home to a country of hope and opportunity. When they were demobbed they faced grinding poverty and a miserly government which is why they threw it out at the earliest opportunity.

They rejected the government they’d rallied around and took comfort from. They rejected the prime minister who’d inspired them to fight on when all seemed lost. They refused to take orders from the officer class whom they’d fought beside. They stared their mortality in the face and were determined that post war was not going to be business as usual. That generation wasn’t entirely successful but it bought prosperity for ordinary Brits they’d never known before in these islands.

We must not celebrate peace in Europe for 75 years without acknowledging that in the past decade millions have passed through its borders, torn by conflict that Europe is at least partly responsibe for. Did we simply export war in order to enjoy peace? Can we sleep when children are killed in Yemen with our bombs and expertise? Let’s commemorate VE day but what cause is there for celebration?

One Reply to “V.E.ry Good Friday”

  1. Interesting piece about VE day, Chris. I find the whole thing abhorrent and a cynical distraction from the lockdown – an excuse for a piss up in the street, as has happened round at mine. It started off so well, with neighbours meeting and greeting each other at an appropriate distance, but at some stage in the evening, a bunch of new folk arrived from god knows where and all sense of caution was lost. I came in at 6pm. They are bouncing off the walls in the house next door singing We’ll Meet Again. Happy VE day!

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