|Image on Jeremy Corbyn's Christmas Card 2016
Earlier this week I finished reading The Light Between the Oceans by M. L. Stedman. It was bought for me by a friend who knew that I would find interesting the thoughtful, complex consideration of what it is to be a mother. (I intend to write about this soon.) Here I briefly pick up on another theme in the book; that of the trauma of war. Of course the two are connected in that there have been many wars (including, as Stedman clearly demonstrates, World War 1) that have stolen generations of children from their mothers (and fathers). I wrote a short story about this last year which included the following:
Drinking strong coffee at a café in the square life goes on around me, if somewhat subdued and leaner than before. The generations gap is clear; the missing men. And what of the women they left behind? Many unable to fulfil the almost only feminine destiny of that, if not so much this, era. No husband, nor children for them. And those that do mother are raising the fighters of the future. Loss is everywhere be it known or not.
At the beginning of Stedman’s book Tom is still recovering (actually it’s a life-long experience for him, as for many others) from his time on the front line. (As the book is set in Australia Tom’s experience made me think of Eric Bogle’s And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda – here it is, please listen to the words https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=471-ucVd7o0 )
And so to Tom:
To make sense of it – that’s the challenge. To bear witness to the death, without being broken by the weight of it. There’s no reason he should still be alive, un-maimed. Suddenly Tom realises he is crying. He weeps for the men snatched away to his left and right when death had no appetite for him. He weeps for the men he killed. (Stedman (2012) The Light Between the Oceans Black Swan: p79 my emphasis).
I think many might guess why this particular passage jumped out at me. The world does not feel like a very safe place at the moment. Thus, whilst it is essential that we call out and challenge, do something about, the prejudice, discrimination and inequality in our communities, counties and country we need also to think seriously about the world’s peoples as a whole, our relationships with and responsibilities to them. One thing we could do is listen, really listen, to the man who says:
Labour will end the bomb first, talk later approach that has made our country and the world less safe (jeremycorbyn16 Feb 2018).