While it is important that we commemorate wars we cannot allow our government to get away with selective memory

Lindsey German

There seem to be no limits to the government’s referencing the Second World War. Every week we are reminded of some aspect – the Battle of Britain or Dunkirk. While it is important that we commemorate wars and those who suffered so much in them, we also need in the 21st century to be aware of the extensive nature of weaponry and war and of the real threats that still exist.

We also need, 75 and 102 years respectively after the two world wars, to be seriously aiming not for future cold or hot wars, but for world peace. There was more commemoration last week with the 75th anniversary of VJ Day. Even at the time this was much less marked in Britain than VE Day. This year it was highlighted in a way that I never remember before, with lengthy items all over the BBC and a two minute’s silence.

There was terrible suffering on the Burma railway and in the Japanese camps, and that should be commemorated. But I saw little about how the war ended, with the terrible nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the huge numbers of Japanese casualties. Nor did I see any reflection of the hatred of the British empire in the far east, when many of the empire’s subjects, from Singapore to India, saw the Axis powers as a lesser evil. If there is going to be an establishment and media obsession with the Second World War, can we at least be given the whole picture, and be able to discuss why certain things took place, rather than these very partial views?

Out of that war came all sorts of legal safeguards for the protection of refugees. They still exist, but Priti Patel wants to engage in her own form of gunboat diplomacy and send back the tiny handful of refugees who are crossing the very dangerous English Channel in rubber dinghies. Unfortunately this sort of scapegoating has some impact, especially in periods of crisis. Which is why everyone who knows that the scapegoating is based on lies, that this is not an invasion, that these people are escaping war and displacement, and that we can easily welcome them to this rich country, has a duty to say so.

In particular Labour has a duty to do so. Recent polling showed Labour supporters much more sympathetic to the refugees that Tories. Labour supporters and MPs, including labour’s leadership, need to speak out in favour of refugees, and against the racism which leads to inhumane responses to people drowning in the Channel.

21 Aug 2020 by Lindsey German

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