“Only the dead have seen the end of war” – Plato
The month of May is somewhat synonymous now with celebrating victory. A celebration that is now being politically tarnished. A victory that seems to be gradually losing its deeper essence by a nation and her ungrateful citizens, who have now gotten used to seeing the 30 years of bloody conflict like a 20/20 match, where one side is bound to win anyway. To many it is another day, as life rapidly overshadows the tremendous sacrifices made by Sri Lanka’s gallant sons. They are and continue to remain as someone’s father, brother, husband and friend. They include uniformed soldiers and innocent civilians.
Whilst many sat in the comfort of their cozy rooms watching Cinemax and Netflix or swaying their hips to rhythms at night clubs, an entire generation of youth offered their lives, knowing very well that their reward would culminate in certain death, especially the men who enlisted in combat units operating deep behind enemy lines. They were the sons and daughters of the ordinary villager. They had parents, brothers, sisters and lovers. The choice of being a combat soldier is not an easy choice. It is a sacrifice, the epitome of altruism.
Seven years after the grandeur and pomp of military parades and television documentaries, we as a nation have indeed failed to sustain and honour the era of progressive peace. There are hundreds of young men from the Tri forces and Police who continue to be hindered by emotional scars, apart from their painful and uncomfortable physical injuries. There are also youth in the North and East who were forcefully conscripted into combat, many abducted from tuition classes and Kovils and today left behind to suffer alone.
It might be good to take a mild diversion here to emphasize the horror of war – the deafening sounds of exploding shells and deathly volley of tracer bullets whizzing by from a machine gun. The constant fear of being shot at by an elusive sniper or worse being blown up by a landmine and still being alive. During the end of World War 1 and 11 the citizens of America, Britain and other allied nations were suddenly forced to recognize and mingle with men who were terribly disfigured and deformed. In order to “diplomatically absorb” this terrible reality Hollywood and other movie tycoons began to introduce movies of a scary nature, featuring disfigured humans. This is the real story of the beginning of English movies into the genre of horror.
Coming back to sunny paradise, there is much for us to do as a nation to help in the healing process of the wars’ heroes and civilian victims. When one has lost an arm or leg, it is reminded to them every single day, as they are hindered from routines like brushing their teeth or combing their hair. Some are confined to beds, staring into the ceiling, with memories of their once vibrant youth and concerns of their future. Many soldiers suffer from cluster headaches and nightmares. Clinical counselling must be supplemented with love. It is important that these veterans be absorbed back into their villages and homes as people with value. How many citizens can claim that they have visited the Ranaviru Sevana located at Ragama at least once? We can’t expect the government to do all this alone. There are family members – parents, wives and children who also endure various social stigmas. Also some families have are photos of sons in uniform, who are still missing in action.
It is alarmingly disdainful that even today politicians of all parties selfishly abuse the sacrifice of the war veterans. Patriotism in its true form must respect and continuously recognize the service of all Sri Lankans who were hurt by the trauma of war. We must all be reconciled as one nation. Maybe we can find enlightenment in the words of Mark Twain who opined, “War is what happens when language fails”.