Does commemorating past battles heal rifts or keep them fresh?
On a recent visit to Pearl Harbor, it occurred to me that the American and Japanese tourists each have a different perspective of the attack on Pearl Harbor. For one group it was a tragic defeat, for the other gorup, a glorious victory. What do the two sets of tour guides tell their visitors and how does it differ between the two? Have you ever thought about this when visiting historic sites and do you think remembering past battles serves to heal rifts or keep them fresh?
Of course it depends on the Individual. For the most part, I believe it heals and serves as a reminder of the heartbreaking futility of war. I don't believe Japanese tourists celebrate the sneak attack as a victory. While they can be proud of the bravery that their people displayed throughout the war, I believe the average Japanese visitor pays stoic homage to the people who died there. They mourn the loss and determine to be at peace with their friends, the Americans.
I've personally have never considered the commemoration of a battle as an effort to heal a rift of any kind. At the culmination of a 'war' there's really no such thing as healing the rift so to speak. I've always looked at remembrances like DDay or Pearl Harbor Day as reminders that we never want to go through another similar war. Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.
As your experience demonstrates, it all depends on which side you support. On the winning side, the visit could have been made to celebrate a victory or to support a tradition.
Victory could be either moral or military. Thus in the case of Pearl Harbour, the moral victory of the 'loser' could far outweigh any self-congratulatory sentiments the 'winning' side would wish to express. A great number would feel so embarassed at the very high moral price paid for the 'victory' that their sadness would be indistinguishable from that suffered by the enemy.
Furthermore, in assessing the emotional context of any victory, one would have to consider whether it led to a resolution of the dispute, or to further senseless loss of life.
In the end it comes down to tne national or personal sense of values. In some societies these are inverted, and the celebrant is socialized into the acceptance and the glorification of war, regardless of its causes and it results. For example in some societies, self-destruction is a very highly respected emotional reaction.
It all depends on what people or nations want to do. Do they want commemoration to mark a period of reconciliation or pick at an open wound.
I expect the tour guides tell their respective audiences what they want to hear. In the case of Pearl Harbor, for the Japanese a glorious and short lived victory. For the Americans a humiliating defeat, which "woke the sleeping giant."
They are both right in the viewpoints of both groups but with very different spin on the outcome.
I think if there is respect given to those who lost their lives on both sides then these sites can go a long way to healing rifts rather than opening up old wounds.
I think it tends more to healing than to divisiveness. As time goes by, it becomes easier to acknowledge the virtues of a former 'enemy.' It's not uncommon for veterans from opposite sides to feel the kinship of a shared experience--even though, ironically, that shared experience involved them potentially trying to kill each other.
The biggest exceptions, I've noticed, are situations where the 'experience' is not battle, but some form of abuse: I've read extremely bitter commentary from former POWs, for example. It's one thing to forgive what was done in 'a fair fight'--quite another to forgive atrocities committed against those already rendered helpless.
Either way, remembering history has value: it, too, is part of our reality, and understanding it gives us potentially valuable guidance.
I believe that commemorating past battles or wars is a just thing and that it means a lot to family that has lost members in these wars. What would be the purpose in fighting and losing ones life if we were to think that future people would not recognize our sacrifice and dedication in defending our country? Yes, it is right to honor past members who have given their lives in wars and fighting for the freedoms and rights of our nation.The Civil War, Spanish American War, WWI, WWII, Korea. Vietnam, Somalia, Iraq, and Afghanistan, all need to be remembered that were in these wars and why we fought them.Perhaps countries will take the example of such events and decide that they are not worth the sacrifice or even inciting such wars in the first place. True healing takes place in the fact of the understanding that these wars were necessary for preservation and defense of our country and the duty of its citizens in defense of same.
Military commemorations, war memorials, and historic battlegrounds are all solemn reminders of the personal sacrifices and the lives lost for the advancement of freedom. In addition to their historical significance,they serve as places of honor and tribute, places of meditation and prayer, and places for loved ones to find closure. These all work toward healing wounds not reopening them.
I think we need to remember what has happened in the past to avoid repeating the mistakes we made. When visiting these sites it puts everything into perspective and gives a realism to what actually happened instead of seeing it on television. It reminds us how costly war is and that it should only be a last resort when it comes to resolving conflicts. You have to remember that many Japanese perrished on that day also and regardless of where we come from we visit these places to pay our respects to those that lost their lives.
First I do not look back on that as a victory. It is a piece of history that I wish could have been settled a different way. Further back, if the precipitating events had not occurred that may have caused that never to have happened. I feel sad for the loss on both sides ...devastating is the only word I can think of...for any kind of commemoration. To answer the question does it heal or cause more ill will, you would need to probably speak directly with those involved because each would have a different reason to attending those ceremonies.
For some it probably is a way to show continued respect for those who lost their lives...for others angst and anger may return.
For me, it is a time to reflect and remember the past...and to hope that those who are in leadership positions around the world will find a way to help stem the tide that leads to the terror that war and acts of war and terrorism cause.
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