Saturday 14 July. The Citadel of Huy looms over where I’m parked so it was a short but steep walk to get to it, passing memorials on the way to some who’d died there, including some British and others aged about 21; they’d have been fighting a war at my children’s age. An ancient strategic site, it was rebuilt around 1820, but from 1940 to 1944 the German army used it as a prison. It stands as it was when recaptured. This is entirely appropriate, though unsettling. Views from the top were awesome. Drew me to thinking that you’re going to have a different perspective on war and peace when your country has been occupied, or you have a thousand years of history where other nations sought to own you. The EU flag is flown everywhere flags are flown. Intellectually, I have always got this aspect of the EU, but seeing the flag on a small war memorial really put the Union in perspective. Such a short time ago, Europe went to shit twice due, completely, to ineffective politics and politicians. While today’s UK politicians fetishise death and war, claiming everyone involved are ‘heroes’, it is their abject failure to make sound political decisions, and to have a politcal vision, that leads people to their death in war. Mainland Europe has a recalcitrant Russia on its east, just a drive away as Ukraine knows. The Brexit mentality assumes a massive buffer between the UK and conflict. It sees war as being ‘over there’, someone else’s problem. Our government and opposition are focussed on small disputes within their own houses and are not looking out the windows. Trump, Putin, the rise of nationalism, forced migration, Irish border issues, the loss of great collaborative projects and the pragmatism of 27 other countries who are happy to pick up everything the UK currently contributes to the EU are not priorities in their thinking.
Every year we have a Holocaust Day, a Rememberance Day, but it’s smart frocks and ceremony and doesn’t imbue political thinking. Why is there now an armed forces day? Why is the country meant to mark those we send to kill people? It’s a slight of hand to hide the political guilt that people’s family members are sent to die, or are maimed horribly.
Never again! At memorials those words are always uttered, but history shows there’s always a next time. The last two world wars happened in enlightened times and now there are pans of oil bubbling away that could spill onto flames at any moment. Meanwhile, the UK government are looking to their political self interests. Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” We do not even have the good men and women.
In these times we need to reach out hands, not turn our backs. Rant over, without apology.
After leaving the Citadel I followed my nose, discovering museums, art centres, historical buildings and a very pleasant town. So pleased it was at the point of the pin put in the map. Feeling like the only Brit in Huy I decided to watch England play Belgium in my local bar. Good fun, being ribbed by the locals. They were all very sypathetic after the match and hoping I’d enjoy the rest of the weekend. I will, because I’ll stay another day.
There are cycle routes along the river so I plan to see where they lead and, even though I don’t like football, I may watch the final in my local tomorrow and extend the entente cordiale.