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How can we ever forget?

November 11, 2013

poppyToday, the world over, memorials commemorate the war dead of every country, every conflict; soldiers and civilians alike.

In Canada, Remembrance Day is a legal holiday. We pay our respects with two minutes of silence at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. The observance in Commonwealth countries officially began in 1919 after the end of the First World War in 1918. The two minutes of silence on the elevens symbolizes the armistice, effective at 11 a.m. on 11 November, 1918.

Next year the world will begin to mark all the centenaries of the First World War — the terrible global conflict which took the lives of nearly 10 million soldiers and untold numbers of civilians, and, gave birth to some of the greatest political (read human) problems of the 20th Century.

Remember, reflect, and respect

Canadian military truck returning to the Seaforth Armoury on Burrard Street from a Remembrance Day memorial event.

Canadian military truck returning to the Seaforth Armoury on Burrard Street from a Remembrance Day memorial event.

Today I think of Canadian soldiers — all soldiers actually — serving right now in foreign countries, such as Afghanistan. and I think back to all the farm boys from all the various empires, and nations: French, British, German, Austro-Hungarian, Russian, Ottoman, and American, in the First World War, who obediently walked or ran to their deaths in the face of machine gun fire — senseless deaths so necessary for the ultimate victory. I consider the pain and bewilderment of post-Second World War fathers and mothers who saw their children turn their backs on their parents’ values to protest a pointless, unjust war in Vietnam, and then also the men and women who obeyed their country, and served in Vietnam, only to return home to the United States, and a wall of hatred, as if they didn’t have enough problems. The Vietnam conflict was a real boost to both the homeless and drug problems in the U.S.

We’re enjoined to remember, but how can we forget? There is always a war going on somewhere — a civil war, a war of aggression, of defence — usually several. People dying, being maimed, losing everything. It’s insane, but historians tell us how important, and pivotal wars are in the scheme of things. I wonder if there has been one day in human history when there wasn’t a war being fought somewhere. That would also be a day worth remembering.

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