Remembrance

Today is, of course, Remembrance Day. This is one of those events that I’m always of incredibly mixed mind about. It’s made doubly odd that it’s an actual holiday out here in BC, but never was back in Ontario growing up. I also remember lots of meaningless paens and speeches when I was a child. I remember standing up in front of my elementary school and reciting ‘In Flanders’ fields’, and the Lieutenant Governor (or his wife) giving me a big sloppy smooch after I finished, much to my embarrassment and the laughter of my school.

I remember arguing that any commemoration of war was inherently a validating event, and war, no matter what the cause, was never justified and should never be validated. I later remember recanting that viewpoint as I learned more history. I still fundamentally disagree that war is an appropriate solution to anything, but am no longer so naïve to believe that a unilateral opposition to war can prevent it.

I still don’t buy into the ‘they fought for our freedom’ refrain that gets bandied about around this time of year. Fighting for peace, or for any other justification besides the annihilation of an enemy always rings false to me — perhaps I’m just jaded by contemporary experience though.

But I do think it is important to remember the horrific things that humans are capable of doing to each other. For me, remembrance day is not a time to remember how bravely our soldiers fought, what glory they paid for with their lives. It’s a time to remember that grown men were brought to tears by the misery they endured. That millions died pointlessly, horribly, alone & scared for a reason they probably never understood. It’s a time to remember that every single name on every single war memorial should never have ended up there.

Perhaps that’s why I never understand the ceremony that goes along with Remembrance Day here — for an occasion that seems to demand quiet, individual introspection, there’s an awful lot of pomp and circumstance. Yes, much is done with somber dignity, and for those veterans, I can understand wanting to be with others who might just understand what I went through.

So take a moment today to reflect and remember, and hopefully, go forward with renewed vigour to prevent inflicting those horrors on future generations.