November 11, 2003

Remembrance Day 2003

It's strange...

Remembrance Day and Thanksgiving are the only two occasions that I make a point of doing yearly entries for. And recently, in the course of rummaging around for inspiration, I learned that from 1921 to 1930, in Canada, they were celebrated together in November.

In 1931 Armistice Day became Remembrance Day and Thanksgiving reverted to October.

I suppose in the years following World War I it was natural to feel thankful that the war was over but thankfulness for those who fought can be trickier.
I've written about the poppies which embody the spirit of the day in Canada.
This year in Montreal there was another twist to the poppy saga.
In four separate instances, the Canadian Legion, whose volunteers conduct the poppy campaign, were initially turned away from places where they were to sell the pins to the public.
Three of these places were bank branches (in different areas of the city) and one was a well-known big box Swedish furniture store.
All four quickly reversed their decisions in the ensuing public outrage and, furiously backpedalling, mumbled about "misunderstandings".

But why...
Why would a business risk that sort of damaging publicity rather than have a few elderly volunteers sitting at a small desk selling poppy pins for a few days?

I think it's because "forgetting" isn't the problem anymore.
We don't forget.
We deny.

We don't want to have the Canadian Legion in uniform selling poppies on our premises. The visual reminder of wars past makes us uncomfortable, for war is more than fighting and killing.
It is the failure of peace.
It is the failure of our forbears to peacefully solve the conflicts of their day and prevent the monstrosities that occurred.

It is the worst possible outcome and a grim prediction for the future.

War is bad therefore how can we honour those who partake in it?

This attitude was at its height in the U.S. during the Viet Nam War. I think that people now are able to intellectually separate the participant from the event itself but emotionally, maybe it's harder.

Perhaps it's time to put the thanksgiving back into Remembrance Day.



Linque Du Jour:   English Verse
Beautiful, clean, uncluttered site devoted to "classic English poetry and poets".

While it bears browsing at any time, I came across it in a search for other poems by John McCrea, who wrote In Flanders Fields.

This one, Disarmament was quoted in our newspaper today.

John McCrae
Disarmament

One spake amid the nations, “Let us cease
From darkening with strife the fair World's light,
We who are great in war be great in peace.
No longer let us plead the cause by might.”

But from a million British graves took birth
A silent voice — the million spake as one —
“If ye have righted all the wrongs of earth
Lay by the sword! Its work and ours is done.”



Previous Remembrance Day Entries:


2002:
Remembrance Day 2002

2001:
Remembrance Day 2001

2000:
Poppies

1999:
Remembrance Day



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