This is the story of a 93-year-old man and and an 11-month-old boy.
Each occupy a bookend of life; together they paint a picture of the futility of war.
My grandfather Jack Dihm was a decorated war hero – a veteran of Libya, Egypt, Greece, Crete, and the Pacific. On Anzac Day he would march, chest proudly pinned with medals of valour.
What he witnessed could not be put into words.
At times, a glass of wine would bring a tiny tear to the corner of his eye. He would remember. Then yearn to forget.
This is what I learned: war veterans are the greatest pacifists.
“War is a terrible thing,” he once said. “It’s not just the horror. It’s the sheer pointlessness of it all. One side says or does one thing. The other side strikes back. Where does it end?”
This conversation was prompted by my 7-year-old son (pictured right with Jack Dihm) playing with a toy gun. I thought his great grandfather would be chuffed seeing Taj dressed up in combat gear, but his face bore a mask of horror.
That particular fancy dress costume soon saw the lining of the bin.
I was reminded of my grandfather’s words while reading analysis of the latest conflict in the Middle East.
A photograph of the broken body of an 11-month-old boy in the arms of his father took my breath away.
He was the son of a BBC journalist who lives in Gaza. The grief etched on Jihad Masharawi’s face is palpable.Jihad Mashawari holds the body of his 11 month-old son Omar. Image via fairfax.com.au
I could not look away.
I tweeted a similar picture on the weekend, but it was too confronting for some.
“The photo you RT’d of a dead child in Gaza showed up as a thumbnail on my phone app. I had no warning/choice before seeing it,” one wrote.
Perhaps I should have added a warning. But don’t we need to see these images?
The image of Jihad Mashawari holding the body of his child says more than all the opinion pieces in The Australian (pro-Israeli) and Fairfax (pro-Palestinian) could convey.
No one side is solely to blame: everyone is culpable, and the death of this child – one of many – underlines the futility of war. Innocent children are being used by both sides as tools for propaganda and if my grandfather was alive today, I know what he would say.
“How many more young lives will be wasted? When will we learn?”
You might be reading this thinking, “It’s human nature to defend our patch. History is littered with the corpses of fallen soldiers. It will always be so.”
It is incumbent upon us all to question so-called conventional wisdom.
I prefer the wise words of my grandfather, to be read out during his eulogy tomorrow.
On his deathbed last week, when asked what he wished for, it was one thing: to see peace in this world.
Not a picture of another family torn apart by a pointless war.
MORE ARTICLES BY TRACEY SPICER
*Tracey Spicer is a respected journalist who has worked for many years in radio, print and television.
Channel Nine and 10 news presenter and reporter; 2UE and Vega broadcaster; News Ltd. columnist; Sky News anchor …it’s been a dream career for the Brisbane schoolgirl with a passion for news and current affairs.
Tracey is a passionate advocate for issues as diverse as voluntary euthanasia, childhood vaccinations, breastfeeding, better regulation of foreign investment in Australia’s farmland, and curtailed opening hours for pubs and clubs. She is an Ambassador for World Vision, ActionAid, WWF, the Royal Hospital for Women’s Newborn Care Centre and the Penguin Foundation, Patron of Cancer Council NSW and The National Premmie Foundation, and the face of the Garvan Institute’s research into pancreatic cancer, which killed her beloved mother Marcia 11 years ago. But Tracey’s favourite job, with her husband, is bringing up two beautiful children – six-year-old Taj and five-year-old Grace. Visit Tracey’s website at www.spicercommunications.biz or follow her on Twitter @spicertracey.