As a child growing up in Melbourne, Australia (this is Arnold Roth writing), I thought I knew what we meant when twice each year, on Anzac Day and on Remembrance Day, we would solemnly recite and sign and write and in various ways render an archaic-sounding phrase that was put to use on those days only. Lest we forget.
I had a sense of what was meant, though never looked into its origin until thus morning. Those were simpler times, and it turns out that “Lest we forget” is part of the refrain of a poem, “Recessional“, by Rudyard Kipling. It was composed for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897 and carries with it both religious and nationalistic notes. But then it became, as we would call it today, repurposed:
It introduces the reason for the entreaty expressed in the poem: that God might spare England from oblivion or profanity “lest we forget” the sacrifice of Christ (“Thine ancient sacrifice”).
The phrase later passed into common usage after World War I across the British Commonwealth especially, becoming linked with Remembrance Day observations; it came to be a plea not to forget past sacrifices, and was often found as the only wording on war memorials, or used as an epitaph [Wikipedia]
As the child of parents who both survived the destruction of Europe’s Jewish communities by the Nazi Germans and their many collaborators, and then sixty years later as the father of a child murdered in the streets of the city where we live because she was Jewish, I came to dwell again and again on the power and imperative of memory, of remembering, of never forgetting lest…
Today is July 7. It happens to be the day on which a notorious evil Islamist was finally removed from British soil and sent to the Arab kingdom which currently plays host to the woman who engineered my daughter’s murder. But in a larger sense, one which ought to be impacting on the lives of many, it is the 8th anniversary of 7/7, the day on which London’s underground train system became, for a moment, the battlefield in the ongoing war between the dark forces of jihadism and civilized society.
I went looking this morning, via my trusty ally Google, for mentions in today’s (and yesterday’s and Friday’s) British news media of the names of the 52 people whose lives were terminated eight years ago with utter cruelty and in the grossest possible breach of human rights that there is: the right to live.
I will save readers the trouble. While there are mentions here and there, the news media are focused on other things, and the victims, as victims always are, are remembered mainly by those who knew them and loved them. It’s difficult to find their names recorded in any news channel during these days leading up to and including the anniversary.
In their memory and in honour of their being victims, part of a tragically long and growing list of victims of the process that the British media are by and large encouraging the British public to forget, here are the names of the fifty-two, sacrificed against their will by Islamists whose murderous achievements eight years ago today continue to be celebrated in the hate-filled circles which spawned and sent them.
It would have been good to be able to add that the BBC’s editors devoted prime space and time to coverage of the eighth anniversary and to the victims this weekend. If that happened, we can’t see it. We would be very glad to know we’re wrong on this (please let us know).
Neither the British in general nor the BBC are worse on this issue than most other Western societies. When the victims of acts of terrorism are remembered as victims of a physical, motivated, ideological, identifiable enemy, and when the retrospective reports of their deaths include factual coverage of how they died, and why, we will be on the road to understanding how to address the threat that the terrorist pose to all of us. We’re not there yet.