Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Remembrance Day

One of the things that always comes to mind on Remembrance Day is the annual art competition in public school. I wonder if they still do that? Perhaps what I remember most is never winning said competition, though I dutifully went to work on it every year. Poster paints one year, pastels the next, and when I finally felt confident in my artistic ability, pencil crayons. I depicted poppies, crosses, soldiers, guns, battlefields -- all things I knew were relevant and important images where war was concerned. In the eighth grade I wrote a haiku for Remembrance Day about death. In the ninth grade we watched a holocaust movie in Canadian History that made me cry.
I also remember the annual assembly at the local community centre where we would gather for the morning ceremony. When I say "we", I mean everybody -- the whole town! Three different public schools, the retirement home, the legion, scouts, guides, and air cadets, municipal politicans, and the ten or so other adults who worked in town. It was by far the largest gathering of people under one roof I ever got to see in my little home town (with the exception maybe of the annual Christmas Craft Show).

Even today I make an effort every year to stop and think about those fallen heroes and the sacrifices they made so that I can have the life that I do. I am lucky to work at an institution where Remembrance Day is taken seriously and with much ceremony.
In saying all of this I feel it pertinent to note that I am strongly opposed to war in all forms -- and am apparently genetically predisposed to feel the way I do. I'm not aware of any of my forefathers having served . I come from a long line of farmers on both sides of the family. Actually, to give credit where it's due, my maternal grandfather did enlist at the age of 13 and was admitted into the Dutch army, but was soon discharged for dismantling barracks and starting fires. He was cold!
Remembrance Day for me is about more than honouring the brave men and women who died defending our rights -- it's about remembering the horrors of World Wars I and II that should never be (and should never have been) repeated. It's about remembering the mistakes that were made and acknowledging that they should never be made again. Never. I think forgetting that is a dishonour to them.
I also think that using violence to further a power struggle -- no matter how technologically advanced -- draws us nearer to our cave-dwelling ancestors. Have we really come so far as a species just to develop better/smarter/more efficient ways of killing? Surely we have also advanced somewhat in modes of negotiating, communicating, respecting opposing values and opinions, and keeping peace.
Finally, Remembrance Day for me is about the future. It's about telling the stories our veterans have left us with so that future generations will know and understand what was lost, what was won, and what's at stake when we forget.
What do you remember?

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