PTE W.O. Mumford, France – Belgium

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Je Suis Charlie. Shading your Facebook profile in the colours of the French or Belgium flag. Doing a hashtag to support the victims. Signing up for a war in a foreign country at the prime of your life.

Private Mumford, born 1894 and killed on the field of battle before his 25th birthday. I don’t know if Mumford left a wife of children, if he left a promising career or siblings. I don’t know if he was the town drunk or a scoundrel or a racist. The only information I have on Mumford is a random plate inset into a footpath on the headland at Caloundra. I know that 99 years after his death, after him storming some machine gun fire, or being obliterated by a shell, or being bayoneted by the Kaiser’s army, that the very land Mumford and his brothers fought over are once again being attacked, overrun, terrorised.

You can be cynical and say Mumford was but a small pawn in a seismic shift on the European continent some hundred years ago. You could rely on some commentators who argue that the Australian soldiers were brawlers, rapists, drunks and mercenaries. Me? I like to think Mumford signed up for war to fight for freedom for himself and his family.

I’ve been wondering what Mumford would think if he was to come back now. What would he think about the countries he marched across? About the land the blood of his brothers was spilled? About how the police in France and Belgium are now turning water cannons on their own? When a ‘March against Fear’ is cancelled due to security concerns. When parts of Paris and Belgium are now no-go zones for the indigenous population. When the press is now set upon, beaten and attacked.

It’s argued that violence is never the answer. It seems though that there’s a very prominent group at the moment who’s subscribing to the thought that violence is the answer. It seems that one group is using terror, violence and fear in a very effective manner to subjugate freedoms, prevent liberty and impose a set of values and beliefs that are literally hellbent on submission.

I think about my response to terrorism, and the response of my ‘elites’ to terrorism. I think of the talk, and the arguments that ‘diversity is our strength’, and that we need to watch what we say as to not offend anyone. I think about the endless gabfest about the triggers for extremism, about not marginalising disaffected youths, about how we all have a responsibility to make people feel welcome.

I know Mumford wasn’t in World War Two. I know he wasn’t fighting against the evil empire of Hitler, or the oppressive Soviets. I know though that Mumford was still fighting for the liberation of France and Belgium.

You know what Mumford wasn’t doing? Hashtagging his twitter with messages of support. changing his facebook photos. He wasn’t keeping his damn trap shut against tyranny, oppression and haters of freedom. No, he was probably freezing his ass off in some muddy ditch in a field in some French backwater, the Hun’s shells exploding around, machine-gun bullets whizzing overhead and mine-filled no-mans land ahead of him. Like I said before, I don’t know what kind of a man Mumford was. Was he a man of integrity? Was he a swindler? Whatever he was, when freedom was concerned, he was doing a hell of a lot more than I have.

What rights for freedom and her sister liberty have you fought for?

I know that I won’t be keeping silent about freedom and liberty. I’m thankful that, just under 100 years ago, there were guys like Mumford that fought fire with fire in the name of freedom. Fighting against the cold wind of tyranny and oppression away from his family, his home, his country.

As this evil wind blows, threatening to silence, intimidate, cause fear, what are you doing? Cowering, not wanting to cause offence, or standing up and making lives like Mumfords mean something?

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