I’ve never fought in a war, and given a choice I never will. I hope and pray that I never know what it’s like to be surrounded by gunfire or explosions, or witness anyone die by violent and unnatural causes.
If I were interviewed while at a dawn service, or at Gallipoli, or during one of the many marches happening around Australia on Anzac Day, I imagine I would stumble and stutter for the correct words to convey the immense emotions I was feeling, from my position of comfort and privilege.
As a result, I’d appear just as clueless and blank as most of those we see on television, that also have no first hand experience of war.
On past Anzac Day’s after too many beers, I’ve overheard accusations that Anzac Day glorifies war, and I’ve fired back.
Whether or not Australia should have ever gotten involved in any wars, whether or not it was the right thing to do, and whether or not it was necessary are in my opinion, all arguments for other days.
For me, Anzac Day is not about the politics of war. It’s about the supreme sacrifice that so many people have given.
Our own life is the most precious one gift that each one of us has, and to risk that for whatever reason is a sacrifice that demands respect.
Many times a day I overhear someone complaining about having to do something trivial and inconvenient, and someone else saying, ‘Poor you. I couldn’t imagine anything worse’.
When it comes to war, I really can’t imagine anything worse.
Everything I know about war I know from second and third hand accounts. From recreations and imaginings, and still I struggle to imagine anything worse.
Anzac Day for me is about honestly reflecting on the reality of war, all that loss, it’s ultimate futility and realising it’s a last resort that we as society should do everything we can to avoid.
It’s about looking right into what people who went to war suffered through, and the toll it took on their lives, and the lives that it’s taken.
As well as remembering that in Australia, we are so very lucky to have a choice in this point in time, as to whether or not we wish to personally fight in a war, and that’s not a choice every Australian in the past is lucky enough to have had. At the moment in the world, many still don’t have that choice.
There’s also been some negative press around the different advertising campaigns that use Anzac Day.
It’s certainly not my call. I’m not a returned servicemen. It’s their brand, they should be able to do with it whatever they like.
Others have wondered if the AFL should so actively exploit the link with Anzac Day, or if gambling should still be allowed through the many legal games of two-up.
Footy, beer and gambling. Sure there some positive and many negative aspects of all three, but they are all also undoubtedly iconically Australian and linked to Anzac Day.
Nobody complains about all the chocolate we consume over Easter, or the unnecessary presents given over Christmas, and those are celebrations with far more tenuous links to actual tradition than Anzac Day.
Point out as many statistics as you like to prove me wrong. All I have to do is point to one person who’s fought for this country, and subsequently been denied any health services, and I’ve proven that the system is inadequate.
Surely if we as a country are fine to let someone risk their lives in our name, we’re obligated to do everything we can to support that life afterwards.
So that’s what I’ll be doing this Anzac Day. Drinking, gambling and watching the footy. While never forgetting the horror that is every war and every death due to war, in order to stop it happening again, and that we should also never stop caring for all those who’ve come home.
Xavier Toby is a writer and comedian.