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.

6 Replies to “Remembrance”

  1. i’ve actually not been to happy with remembrance days since 9/11, because they’re turned into clapfests. i always thought the day was about quiet introspection too, not clapping and cheering at everything (there was actually cheering at vic square yesterday). that seems so american and dirty.

  2. i’ve actually not been to happy with remembrance days since 9/11, because they’re turned into clapfests. i always thought the day was about quiet introspection too, not clapping and cheering at everything (there was actually cheering at vic square yesterday). that seems so american and dirty.

  3. I always thought Remembrance day was a “Let’s always remember what a mistake war is, so it never happens again.” It was always very somber in my childhood memories, never the slightest bit rah-rah! Remembrance day was created after WW1, which really was particullarly pointless. A bunch of youth sitting in mud, choking on gas, getting shot while rapidly becoming disillusioned with the reasons for this war in the first place.

    ‘course, with less and less surviving WW veterans, it’s easier for the original intent to get lost.

  4. I always thought Remembrance day was a “Let’s always remember what a mistake war is, so it never happens again.” It was always very somber in my childhood memories, never the slightest bit rah-rah! Remembrance day was created after WW1, which really was particullarly pointless. A bunch of youth sitting in mud, choking on gas, getting shot while rapidly becoming disillusioned with the reasons for this war in the first place.

    ‘course, with less and less surviving WW veterans, it’s easier for the original intent to get lost.

  5. Rememberance Day has turned into a Big Deal for me in the last few years. For me it’s about how young the people were when they were sent to war.

    I think there’s a limit to how well and informed opinion one can make at 18 or even 23 about whether and how to put one’s life in danger for a cause. I can think back on myself at that age, and even though I was deeply cynical and anti-war, it wouldn’t have taken a whole lot for me to be caught up in the very powerful mix of comraderie and challenge of acheiving something Big.

    It’s interesting to compare some of the recent war movies with an eye on how youth are portrayed. Band of Brothers (which I highly reccommend) leaves patriotism and the Evil of Hitler usaid and understood and really focuses on what it would be like to be a young guy caught up in the war machine.

    (Compared to, say, Pearl Harbor, which features youth, but was just a hodgepodge of patriotism and good v. evil with some really awkward romance stuff thrown in, and in general just a mess of a film).

    It’s a cliche, but the idea that you end up entirely focused on the people you are fighting with – and not necessarily the people you are fighting for (or against) really resonates with me. And that is what I think about this time of year – that if I was 19 and ended up in a war, no matter how that happened or why, I would probably fight just as hard as anybody, not for my country, but for my squad.

    One bias I have which I feel uncomfortable about is that I think that way pretty much only about WWI and WWII. The reasoning about that has something to do with war getting high-tech. So I don’t feel the same way about UN-type-operation veterans or even Vietnam because I think of the soldiers as kind of high-tech specialists and not combatants. I’m sure the flavor of news coverage of wars since the 60’s has alot to do with why I feel that way.

    Plus wars with a draft involved are qualitively different in my mind for some reason. (Pretty creepy that the US is thinking of reinstating the draft right now, eh? What are they planning?!)

    On a different note, an interesting play I saw recently was Unity (1918). The backstory is that when WWI ended, it coincided with a massive influenza epidemic. The number of people who dies in the war was comparable to the number (8 million) that died of the flu in just a few weeks. It’s playing at the Culch for a little while longer I think.

  6. Rememberance Day has turned into a Big Deal for me in the last few years. For me it’s about how young the people were when they were sent to war.

    I think there’s a limit to how well and informed opinion one can make at 18 or even 23 about whether and how to put one’s life in danger for a cause. I can think back on myself at that age, and even though I was deeply cynical and anti-war, it wouldn’t have taken a whole lot for me to be caught up in the very powerful mix of comraderie and challenge of acheiving something Big.

    It’s interesting to compare some of the recent war movies with an eye on how youth are portrayed. Band of Brothers (which I highly reccommend) leaves patriotism and the Evil of Hitler usaid and understood and really focuses on what it would be like to be a young guy caught up in the war machine.

    (Compared to, say, Pearl Harbor, which features youth, but was just a hodgepodge of patriotism and good v. evil with some really awkward romance stuff thrown in, and in general just a mess of a film).

    It’s a cliche, but the idea that you end up entirely focused on the people you are fighting with – and not necessarily the people you are fighting for (or against) really resonates with me. And that is what I think about this time of year – that if I was 19 and ended up in a war, no matter how that happened or why, I would probably fight just as hard as anybody, not for my country, but for my squad.

    One bias I have which I feel uncomfortable about is that I think that way pretty much only about WWI and WWII. The reasoning about that has something to do with war getting high-tech. So I don’t feel the same way about UN-type-operation veterans or even Vietnam because I think of the soldiers as kind of high-tech specialists and not combatants. I’m sure the flavor of news coverage of wars since the 60’s has alot to do with why I feel that way.

    Plus wars with a draft involved are qualitively different in my mind for some reason. (Pretty creepy that the US is thinking of reinstating the draft right now, eh? What are they planning?!)

    On a different note, an interesting play I saw recently was Unity (1918). The backstory is that when WWI ended, it coincided with a massive influenza epidemic. The number of people who dies in the war was comparable to the number (8 million) that died of the flu in just a few weeks. It’s playing at the Culch for a little while longer I think.

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