Competing memories

30 Apr

In a turn of events that’s likely to become all too common as the next few years unfold, there’s some tension in Scotland just now about the way in which the upcoming WWI centenary activities are likely to take precedence over other anniversaries and public commemorations.

In this case it’s the Battle of Bannockburn, which will see its 700th anniversary in 1914.  The commemoration of this dramatically important battle against the English comes at a time when nationalist sentiments in Scotland are being stoked by an impending referendum on national independence — also slated to take place next year.  Those more interested in commemorating the Great War are worried that the Scottish government has been placing far more emphasis on Bannockburn than on 1914 — to the tune of almost five million pounds invested in the Bannockburn programs already, to say nothing of an additional 250,000 pounds for a re-enactment of the medieval battle.  The Great War programs, by comparison, have seen an investment of just over a million pounds.

These tensions are not going to be easily settled, and more of them will no doubt rise on an international level as countries attempt to commemorate events predicated upon very different political and cultural realities than those which prevail today.  Virtually all of the major combatant powers now enjoy at worst an uneasy friendship — some, like Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire, no longer even exist in the same form.

You may well imagine where my sympathies lie in all this — the war’s centenary comes around but once, and I believe it should take precedence over other things of this sort, for the most part.  But that is not an easy answer, or a helpful one.  In truth, I do not know what to suggest.


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