Tuesday, 10 December 2013

learning history or learning lessons

Posted on March 2, 2012 by stephennicholl What hopes and fears, dreams and aspirations did they have? During the recent debate on the commemorations to be held over the next 10 years there was a plea for people to “learn the history” of the period. Such an approach would serve only to diminish the sacrifices made by individuals from all backgrounds during that period. While those who played a part in those events have passed away their sons and daughters, grandsons and grand-daughters remain and their lives were forged in the experiences of their parents and grandparents. It is important that we do not just “learn the history” of that time, we must understand it. We must come to understand the people, our people who lived it and took the decisions that have shaped us all. Remembrance and commemoration must be about more than knowing dates and names, we must come to know the hopes and dreams, the fears and aspirations of those who made great sacrifices. Then and only then will we know the real challenge of the next 10 years, have we in any way created a society worthy of the sacrifices made 100 years ago. Would those who marched and drilled 100 years ago accept that today so many children still live in poverty. Would those who left their trenches on the morning of 1st July 1916 accept that for some their descendants would, 100 years later, leave school with no qualifications and barely able to read and write. Would those who formed the Government of Northern Ireland and wanted a single shared education system accept that today nearly 100 years later we live and learn apart. In the words of John McCrea’s poem In Flanders Fields: To you from failing hands we throw the torch; be yours to hold it high. If ye break faith with us who die we shall not sleep, though poppies grow in Flanders fields. Over the next 10 years we must do more than learn the history of that time, we must answer the questions, have we dropped the torch? Have we broken the faith?

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