There is nothing nice about war. Nothing.
We’ve tried to beautify it.
Spruce it up. Made
films, games, computer simulations – but it is still brutal,
horrific and unnatural. Last
year I was coerced into joining a group in a series of paintballing
battles. For the
un-initiated, this is a game where teams fight each other with airguns
that fire paint-balls over a one hundred meter range.
If the paint ball hits you and bursts, you are declared dead
and have to leave that particular game.
Strategy and energy are the most important ingredients to
success – but one of the games was just pure murder.
Hidden behind stacked oil cans the two teams had to advance
over an open sandy area, reminiscent of the D-Day beaches.
When a whistle blew, you had to advance, there was no choice.
The last participant standing was the winner.
It was a game. But I stood
there thinking, “This is horrific!”
We are playing with paintballs while those on the real D-day
beaches fought for their lives and their country with real bullets and
grenades. Over 10 thousand
people dead or injured. A
horrific total that we cannot bear to imagine – yet a small number
in the total picture of the devastation of World War II.
Steven Spielberg was there on the
beaches last Sunday, his shocking portrayal of the D-day landings in
“Saving Private Ryan” still only a small taste of the real
butchery of war. I’m
personally thankful that a film is about the nearest I’ve come to
such horror – and yet I know, and have talked with many for whom war
has been a present reality. There
are 70 in progress right now. Sadly,
neither of the two World Wars became the war to end all wars.
So, 60 years on, is it still appropriate to remember those who died
fighting for freedom from the Nazi tyranny?
I believe it is. I
believe it was an event so horrific that it is right to remember –
not to glorify war – but to ponder on sacrifice and service.
It is also appropriate that heads of state from 17
countries joined in remembering those who lost their lives, and met
with those veterans still alive.
This will be the last of these celebrations.
The veterans are getting old.
So it is also appropriate that in this 60th
anniversary hands were stretched out in efforts to close this sad
chapter of 20th century history.
Gerhard Schröder became the first German Chancellor to attend D-day
celebrations – his countries flag flying alongside those of nations
it fought so many years back.
French president Chirac, in his speech highlighted the Franco-German
relationship as one that demonstrated that “hate has no future, that
a path to peace is always possible.”
Positive words from beaches that were drenched in sunshine, rather than
the blood of six decades past. Schröder
was right to say that “the post-war period is finally over.”
More signs of coming together: For
the first time
the forgotten ally, was invited to attend – signifying the real end
of another war, the cold war.
And much of that is down to another man we remember this week, former
president, Ronald Reagan. Age
93, he died this week and – in a BBC tribute, I heard former Soviet
President Gorbachev pay tribute to a man who consciously decided that
he did not want war with Russia. They
worked together towards détente.
As a result, the world today is a very different place.
I wonder if, in today’s world, someone like Reagan would ever become
president of the
He had a poor childhood with an alcoholic father, uncertain
college prospects, a failed marriage, an uncertain acting career, and
the world of politics was not easy for him either, yet he was a
continual optimist, even in his declining years suffering from
according to Paul Kengor, author of “God and Ronald Reagan: A
Spiritual Life,” that optimism came though an unfailing faith in
God, and, so it seems, a life of prayer.
I think Christians should be optimists. We should be looking for the good
in each other, in every situation.
Seeing the glass half full rather than half empty.
Optimists help the world become a better place.
They have the courage to “turn the other cheek” because
they believe the oppressor, the bully, can change.
On occasion, as on D-day, they have the courage to do what is
right, even at the cost of their own lives – but for the good of
Last week started a whole series of 60 year memorials that will come over
the next year leading towards the end of the Second World War.
Memories, but also lessons for us to learn.
Today’s battles may be different.
The enemy more hidden. But
the need for optimism, prayer, and the courage to make and live with
difficult decisions is still ours to take.