Magna Carta links

Magna Carta links
At the Library of Congress in Washington

Monday, 7 March 2016

Have we earned it, our life as free people?

A reflection on the book, A God in Ruins, by Kate Atkinson might inform the referendum debate

The grandson of the hero of the story, who had piloted Halifax bombers in WW2, at one point has this thought:

‘They were his own age, doing something noble, something heroic. They were lucky. They’d been given history. It wasn’t going to happen to him. He was never going to be given the chance to be noble and heroic.’

This is something that haunts the post war generation; OK it haunts me: we have never played our part. It is perhaps the same as those dreadful lines said to Private Ryan at the end that film, ‘now earn it’. 

Have we earned it: our life as free people? Is there something we can do to go at least part of the way? 

I suggest that the Referendum gives us an opportunity. 

The European Union, the connection between previously warring European countries is at the heart. I freely accept that the EU is not perfect; it comes out with nonsense too often, but that is our fault for letting it; members states must take a greater say. Let none of this though hide the fact that it is a union of nations, of peoples with a common heritage, peoples who face the same questions. Surely it makes sense to face the questions together. 

As peoples and nations we can move on from our history of war and conflict. We can remember with pride those things we have done which have selflessly benefitted mankind, not least in the way we together tackled the massive refugee crisis left behind by WW2. 

The current refugee crisis is perhaps an acid test. Do we individually close our doors? This would run counter to our history and any claim we may have to a place on the world stage, let alone to reflect our national belief in fairness. 

If we vote ‘no’, with the objective of keeping the refugee out, we deny much that is good about Britain. If we vote ‘no’, because the current institution falls short, we are terminally short of imagination.

The horrors those Bomber Boys and so many others went through need not be in front of us every day, but they do matter. Some might say it is old and past and we should no longer dwell on it. To fly over enemy territory in a Halifax, Stirling or Lancaster is more fear in a single night than most of us have had to face in a lifetime, not to mention the Atlantic convoys, the leading vehicle in an armoured column, making it ashore on D Day or enduring years in captivity. 

Let us grasp this opportunity to do our bit to make the world a better place and move forward together with our neighbours.


Philip Hamlyn Williams - Lincoln - 7 March 2016

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