Friday, November 12, 2010

Remembrance Day

Yesterday was Remembrance Day in Canada.  The day commemorates the end of World War I at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918.  On November 11th we are supposed to honour all of the soldiers who gave their lives in times of war.

I drop out of society every year on Remembrance Day because I hate it.  Before you judge me as cold hearted, please hear me out.

First of all, my grandfather fought in WWII.  He was one of the lucky ones who came home alive.  We have no idea what happened while he was fighting because he never spoke about it up to the day he died.  It's obvious to me that he didn't want to remember.  My hubby's grandfather also fought in WWII and was a POW for a large portion of the war.  He was also lucky to make it home alive.  He does talk about it and the things he tells us are atrocious.  I love both of these men intensely and I honour them, not for their forced war efforts, but for the men that were/are. 

I have quite a few relatives who have voluntarily joined the military.  I respect their choices as I respect them.  I don't really know what any of them have done in this capacity because I don't ask.  It terrifies me to think that these men would put themselves in harms way and even worse that they would be willing to take the life of another human being without even knowing their name. 

Now we're getting more into the reason that I hate Remembrance Day.  It all began with public school assemblies.  Every year we would be herded into the gymnasium, all wearing our red poppies, where someone would recite "In Flanders Fields" and someone would play "Reveille" either live or via recording and we would sit still for 2 minutes of silence.  If it had stopped there, I probably wouldn't feel the way I do today, but it didn't.  There were also films.  Some were just people talking or watered down animated shorts.  I remember one stop-motion short where the toys in a toy store window start a war with each other.  It was a fairly creative approach for younger kids to show the destruction of war.  But once again, they didn't stop there.  They also showed what must have been news reels from war time in which actual men were killed by guns and landmines.  I vividly remember the men being hit and slumping to the ground or being thrown by the mine explosions, all while other men ran past them with their guns intent on killing someone else.  From the age of 6, every frakking year they made me watch men kill each other.  Is it any wonder I have been traumatized?  Once I hit high school, where the walk to the auditorium was no longer supervised, I began disappearing before the assemblies.  Thus began my annual disappearance.

The messages that I got from these assemblies seemed mixed up to me.  War is horrible - Yes, I can agree with that, absolutely.  War is necessary - I still can't buy into that.  Killing people and dying for your country is worthy of honour - This is another one I have trouble with.  For one thing it glorifies killing people you don't even know.  For most of the wars in our past, the vast majority of our soldiers were drafted, meaning that they didn't necessarily want to fight or even believe in the cause.  It was a case of get out there and kill strangers or face the consequences.  If that was the case here, where we place such high value on "freedom", then I think it's safe to say that it was the same or worse for the other side.  Which makes me wonder how many people killed and/or were killed who didn't even believe in what they were killing over. 

Remembering obviously isn't doing the trick since we are still sending men and women out to war zones.  If the grown ups of the world can't figure this out, then how will we ever be done with war?  I, for one, will continue my November disappearing act until war is only something to be remembered.


  1. Remembrance day is also about paying your respect to the soldiers who went to war, whether voluntarily or not, to fight when it needed to be done. You may not agree with why a war was started, but if the soldiers hadn't gone over to fight to stop the war, who is to say that you would live in a world where you even share your thoughts freely?
    If you don't want to attend public ceremonies for it then don't. But you should still show your respect for the people that died by not hiding away because you don't want to see the videos. I think the it's important the videos are shown so people can understand what those soldiers went through. If its hard for you to watch, imagine what it was like for them to live through it. You can show them enough respect to at least watch it so you unnderstand.
    The soldiers are putting themselves in harms way so you can sit back and enjoy your life. They don't have another choice but to take that persons life because if they don't that person would take theirs. Is that preferable to you?
    By doing your 'disapearing act' you are showing disrespect to the soldiers who fought in the past, regardless of whether you believe the wars of the current day have merit. I don't believe they do, but wars still happened and people still died defending our country and if that means I have to watch disturbing videos of what they went through, then I will glady do it and I would never, ever, hide away and show them disrespect like that.

  2. @ Anonymous:
    First you say it's fine to not attend ceremonies and then you say that by not being a part of the day I'm being disrespectful. I don't think you know what that word means. Were I to protest during a ceremony, that would be disrespectful. Were I to call a soldier a murderer for fulfilling his/her duty, that would be disrespectful. (Please note that these are only examples and that I would never even consider doing either and would speak out against anyone who did.) Staying at home on Remembrance Day is no more disrespectful to veterans than staying at home on Christmas is disrespectful to Christians or staying at home during the Gay Pride Parade is disrespectful to homosexuals. The two do not equate.
    I don't need to see the atrocities of war in order to understand that it is horrible. No different than I don't need to be punched in the face in order to know that it will hurt. I'm intelligent enough to understand a concept without being traumatized by it - especially as a small child. Watching disturbing videos is a choice, not a necessity and as far as I can see it serves absolutely no purpose. Far too many good and innocent people (on both sides of any given conflict) have been thrown into these atrocious situations and me watching any of them die does nothing to make things any better. If anything it is disrespectful to the families of these men (and women) to put their hellacious last moments on display.
    As I said in my post, I have a military family and I respect them and their choices. And every time another one of our young men and women come home in a box I am reduced to gut-wrenching, heart broken sobs. So please do not mistake my absence for a lack of respect.