It’s Remembrance Day, November 11th.
Today in Australia, people are asking, ‘Where were you when the Whitlam Government was dismissed?’ That was thirty years ago today; and in the subsequent uproar, ousted Prime Minister Gough Whitlam called on supporters to ‘maintain your rage’.
(For the record, I was trying to get ready for a Church History exam!)
Today is a day to remember.
No one alive can remember the hanging of our national cult figure, Ned Kelly, on this date in 1880.
But many can remember the Armistice which ended the ‘Great War’ – ‘the war to end all wars’. What a bitter irony that is.
On this day, I remember my wife’s Grandpa, who served at the Western Front and was batman to the field commander. Grandpa took what seemed a routine call on the field telephone, for his boss: and was given the message to pass on—Peace is declared. The war is over. Some phonecall.
I remember too friends whose son was tragically killed on the same day, in the same city, as the Whitlam sacking. For them the day has other, more personal, consequences.
Events have communal and personal dimensions.
What we remember and how we remember is of deep and lasting importance for us individually and as a community. In this, Whitlam was right.
There is a crucial Biblical idea here. Remembering: to maintain your hope.
‘In my humble opinion’, the greatest contribution of the Jewish traditions to the world of ideas and the cultures of the West in particular, is the idea of ‘remembrance‘.
This Biblical idea of remembering is so much more than a mental process of recall, or drawing upon the distant images. This remembering, in the greek language expressed in the word ‘anamnesis’, means that events of the past have present power and significance, so much so that we can describe ourselves as having been there, or involved. So the Jewish people actually recall their history, not by saying that the ancestors were slaves in Egypt, but ‘we were slaves in Egypt’. God rescued us.
This kind of memory has inclusive, and transforming, redemptive power.
It helps us see the present and indeed the future in a different way.This remembering re-members our present, our relationships, our future.
‘Maintain your hope’, is what this means.
Past events can be re-membered, in a way that affects our present situation, individually and communally.
Today I wish to remember the hope that we had, at the time of the Whitlam government.
We had vision. We had a commitment to growth, in community, not just ‘the economy’.
There was an idea that government was about people, communties, cities, as places for children to grow, students to contribute, and business and workers as partners in community.
We believed in our participation in the nation and its future.
We felt included, (until that day and its consequences showed us that it was all a lot more complex, more ‘political’ than that!)
We had hope that our nation could contribute to the emergence of a more just world, in peace and with genuine partnerships in Asia, especially; nations growing together.
Was it all lost? No it is not!
We must remember. And re-member. Maintain our hope.