Wednesday, November 11, 2015

World War Wednesdays: Forgetting Remembrance Day

     By now, I think I've seen all the news articles and videos about how today's young people don't know the major facts about the World Wars or the words to In Flanders Fields. I've also seen posts from people my age who choose not to "glorify war" by wearing a poppy in November but instead choosing to wear a "peace button." Before I start discussing my take on these things, I just want to make it clear that I am not one of those angry, militant people you've probably seen on your Facebook who unleash a tirade on every small sign of Christmas before November 11. My goal with this post isn't to make people feel bad about their choices or lack of knowledge surrounding this day, but I do hope that it might make someone stop and think for at least a minute about what it really means to remember on November 11.

     For the people my age who are being portrayed as ignorant, misinformed, and rejecting the concept of Remembrance Day, it is perhaps more unfortunate than any other demographic. What they fail to connect with is that ours is the exact generation that was most affected by these times of conflict, and that we are the ones who would be facing the same situation should history ever repeat itself. When our same generation found themselves on the brink of world war, they reacted the same way that we would react, and that our own children would react in the future-- with fear, disbelief, and in most cases a limited knowledge of the circumstances that had created them.If I were to stretch things just a bit, it could be said that those same concepts are now being reflected when my peers are confronted with the idea of Remembrance Day. Instead of having to deal directly with war, we are dealing with it indirectly, through the recognition and preservation of its memory. Now, just as it was 100 years ago, young people find themselves in control of something that will affect everyone.

     If there's one thing I've learned through what I've chosen to spend my life doing, it's that with every terrible, traumatic thing that came from human conflict, there was always something beautiful and touching that came with it. With the bad comes the good, and a chat with one of the remaining members of the Greatest Generation makes that clear. Yes, Canadian families were torn apart when the men left for service. Yes, rationing, government restrictions, and extra work made life on the home front pretty rough. But what people don't always remember is how much they came together in those times. Neighbors pooled resources to make sure everybody had what they needed. They gathered to listen to the news and talk about it, and if things were bad you could guarantee that everybody understood. Even soldiers had a strong bond and camaraderie with the men they served alongside, and that was a source of encouragement and reassurance. Don't think that it wasn't an extremely tough time, but these people were just as tough.

     I just wish that instead of being so quick to dismiss the idea of remembering this time in our history, my peers would reflect on how similar we are to that same group of people, and how their reactions to war would likely be the same as ours.
They wore ugly Christmas sweaters

And went to the beach with the squad

But ultimately wore a uniform when they had to

      I think they often forget that there were plenty of people then who had their own strong doubts about the idea of throwing men onto the battlefield to solve nations' political problems, and all the senseless destruction that resulted. Please, please just know that they did not have a choice in whether or not this happened. The world was spiraling out of control, they never got the chance to finish school and start their lives, and nothing they could have done would have prevented that,

     The only difference between us and them is that in 2015, we do have the choice. We get to decide whether or not to let what they did slip back into history without future generations knowing it happened. John McCrae's iconic poem isn't a major piece of Canadian remembrance because it encourages conflict, or even because it is a description of war. The reason so many people talk about that one piece every single year is because of these lines:

"Short days ago we lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, loved, and were loved, and now we lie in Flanders Fields. Take up our quarrel with the foe, to you from failing hands we throw the torch, be yours to hold it high, if ye break faith with us who die we shall not sleep."
      He's speaking directly to us with these words, not to continue with the mass killing of innocent men, but to maintain the difficult journey towards what is right and just. We put our faith in these people 100 years ago and again in 1939 to do what it took to stay on that path, and they in turn trusted us to follow them. If you're between the ages of 15 and 25 and did not receive their message through public school history lessons, then I am incredibly sorry. These stories are worth so much more than a dry speech from a worn out teacher and words on a test. All they can ask, and all I am asking, is that you at least make an effort to inform yourself of what it is we are talking about during Remembrance Day, and what you're choosing to ignore when you don't listen. Understand the regular, everyday people involved even if you reject the politicians and leaders who made them so. I think it's not too much to ask for one day where you reflect, say thank you, and keep your own opinions to yourself. After all, they had to do it for up to six long years (WWII).
       Today, more than ever,
Thanks for reading,

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