100 years. A century since an iron war started that would change everything in Europe. Perhaps the world. And 25 years since the iron curtain showed its shaky foundations and collapsed, ending what 1914 started, after millions – millions – of deaths under the banners of ideals and dividing concepts of how people should live.
Thinking of those facing duty and loss this morning, grateful more than I can really appreciate for growing up under political peace. It came at a price I haven’t paid. And whatever the bureaucracy of Europe, it is staggering to have had peace across the continent for as long as the blink of an eye that we have surely had it.
It is healthy I’m sure to squirm a bit at the patriotism, politics and privilege in our pageantry in the UK. But I suspect that members of the British armed forces see their Queen as a symbol of why they go to work and take great pride in doing so: Responsibility to something bigger than themselves. Values. Service. Self discipline. Something worth fighting for. And a vision of a nation? Just what that vision is, is our responsibility with the freedom we now have; to challenge assumptions and understand the real value of life, that we might all revere and protect its wondrous, even glorious, multi-coloured, interlaced possibilities. A Britain that raises a flag and takes a stand for that would be a thing to defend to the last, wouldn’t it? Because you’d be defending an idea of humanity itself, not some arbitrary barbed wire border.
Today is really the essential ritual of remembering the human cost of freedom – that the cost is not measured in numbers but characters.