It was Legionnaires’ Day again today. This year was less tense than in previous years, largely due to the very small number of protesters against the event. A couple of thousand were for it, a couple of dozen against.
This was my fourth March 16, and in previous years I’ve said pretty much all that I can say about it. The only conclusion I came to today was a hardening of my belief that November 11 really should be the day for remembering fallen soldiers.
Known as Lacplesis Day in Latvia, the sight of old and young visiting the walls of Riga castle at night to leave candles burning is dignified and touching.
Some of the old folks manage a bit of dignity on March 16, but in general it’s a tawdry business in comparison with November 11.
SS flashes were thankfully absent, though a few spotty youths took the opportunity to dress up in shabby pseudo-fatigues that would have sent any real sergeant-major into an apoplexy.
I asked one heavily-built marcher why he was wearing a ‘Germany’ scarf. “Because it’s cold,” he replied. Not cold enough for him to close his coat or actually tie the scarf of course, but just cold enough for him to drape it decorously around his thick-set neck.
The preferred line is that the Legionnaires were fighting for Latvia, not Germany.
Equally tasteless were the protesters in pseudo-concentration camp garb looking remarkably well fed as they puffed on cigarettes and talked into mobile phones. Inexplicably, one of them had the word ‘Alien’ printed on the back of her striped shirt.
The police did their job well. The processors sang their marching songs and the protesters played a snatch of Shostakovich in response.
But for me, March 16 was summed up in the image above. Processing through Livu laukums, the supporters of the Legion (with friends from Estonia and Lithuania) stopped briefly to pose with their flags, blissfully unaware of the big wheel behind them.
Slowly but inexorably it turned, lending an air of both absurdity and repetitious inevitability to the whole thing…