This is a piece I wrote on a school trip to some of the battlefields and graveyards of the First World War, in February 2009. It was written somewhat late in the evening of a long day, involving broken-down coaches and so forth, so I apologise for accidentally re-using some imagery and using a tone that was sometimes rather tacky and then at others unnecessarily obscure. I suspect it also of being pretentious but I'm not sure exactly what that means. I'm sorry but naturally not sorry enough to fix it :)
A name will live for as long as it is written. But their sacrifice, their death did not live as long as the men who survived them. It died on the lips of Neville Chamberlain when he let fear breed fear and punishment create crime. It died again in the corruption and hatred of the Cold War, political wrapping-paper on a bundle of xenophobia and ego. We remember their names but not their faces: we remember their deaths, but not their lives. As long as we watch our rows of white stone in silence, as long as we remember the names and dates carved therein, we recall their past and forget the future, we salute our teachers and ignore the lesson.
I look to the future that grows beyond its past, and I wonder how it sounds. I imagine the best humanity I can see, and it is not one that keeps its enemies closer, merely for fear of consequences. It is not one that so fears the blood on its hands that it would have them drained bone-white. We should not be drawn together by our hatred of war but our love of peace, and our drive for novelty must be fuelled by a demand for innovation, not the terror of repetition.
A society that lives by its commonality, through its difference, and for its future, is not one that has any use for the Menin Gate or the bone-white forests of the fallen. When, if ever, we can truly understand ourselves and each other, then we can let those names, as their bodies did nearly a century ago, finally die.