The National Day of Doom and Gloom

December 6 is Finland's Independence day. It's a weird occasion.

In most countries, the national day is a day of joy and celebration. Fireworks, parades, crowds, carnevals and more fireworks.

Not so here. Our Independence day is, year after year, mostly about remembering the war. Suffering of men and women at time of war. Every other day of the year is a think of the children! day, but this is the think of the veterans! day. And a day for candles. And more candles. I do candles too.

Besides candles, the main activity of people seems to be representational celebration: folks sit on a couch and watch TV where a parade of their representatives, bold and beautiful, or bald and pitiful, march to a reception at the presidential palace. There a few war veterans are interviewed on TV.

I don't ridicule the veterans. My father was one of them, his leg torn up by a hand grenade in close combat in the trenches of  Krivi in September 1942, and after a tour of military hospitals and being sent back to the front line, his elbow pierced by a bullet in Tali in June 1944. And even then, fight for every inch of our ground, keep the front where it is, at any cost, and then...peace. Pull back a hundred miles and give the ground to the Soviets.

OK, so there are reasons why the mood of occasion on our Independence day is doom and gloom.  A December day in Finland is not the best time and place for doing a carneval, parade or picnic. And it was a December day in 1918, when Finland did declare independence, and seceded from the  neighbouring Russia who was weak and chaotic after having been savaged by world war and internal turmoil. Then came a Red revolution in Finland. And a civil war. And a bitter defeat of the Reds, and the prison camps where the Whites avenged the real and perceived wrongs they had experienced, and put the surrendered Red soldiers and non-combatants of the losing side in prison camps where thousands were killed by hunger and disease. And then a quiet shame "what have we done?", and then a slow reconciliation as the tenant farmers - people like my grandparents - were granted right to redeem their farms from the manor-owners at a reasonable cost; this was called "liberation". Liberation to a freedom to work your ass off to get your daily bread.

And it is undoubtedly true that our real test of independence came during the Second World War, when the  - mostly - reconciled nation stayed united first under attack by the Soviets and then in attack in alignment with Nazi Germany. Even the poorest of our people knew that oppression under capitalism was preferable to the alternative: a promise of worker's paradise and a reality of shallow graves in faraway lands. Our people  knew that those graves were the actual offer by "international" socialism.  So we balanced between two mustached dictators who both had equally murderous intents, none better than the other. We made it; then came the Cold War and more dancing on the tight rope. A high price was paid for our independence. What's left of it?  EU federalism?

So now the main excitement of Independence Day seems to some dull interviews of people sipping a cocktail mix (Do you enjoy the athmosphere here? - Yes, lots of people here!), and a public debate over which version of the pessimistic "Unknown soldier" movies - 1955 version or 1985 version - is shown by the national broadcaster.  This year they decided to show both. After a hot debate over whether it is legal to broadcast a 1955 black-and-white movie at 2pm because think of the children. I'm really getting fed up with this think of the children and  let's remember the veterans. 

Maybe I'll just go and light another candle.

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