Sunday, November 12, 2006

Remembering to Remember

As I'm writing this, Remembrance Day has passed. I spent the morning at the local cenotaph, and along with thousands of other Canadians, I adorned a poppy on my lapel, as a gesutre of recognition and respect for the sacrifices made by our fallen soldiers.

My friend Kelly noted on her blog that reflecting on the impact of war is an individual thing - and I couldn't agree with her more. However, I can't help but be troubled by comments that I overheard dismissing the poppy as an irrelevant symbol or denouncing Remembrance Day as a simple act of complacency.

While on the bus, I overheard a student ranting that Remembrance Day was merely a "candy-coated" service, and that anyone who attends a ceremony is just going along with the tradition of glorifying war and accepting it as a necessary evil. Unfortunately, I cannot decide what aspect of this line of thinking saddens me most - the complete disregard for war veterans or this student's ignorance as to the significance of both the poppy and of Remembrance Day.

These services provide all Canadians with the occasion to acknowledge and honour the sacrifices made in their name by the thousands of young, healthy, and vibrant Canadians throughout the First and Second World Wars. More importantly, these ceremonies provide the last few living veterans an occasion to reflect on their past and salute their fellow comrades who died in war.

Over 100,000 Canadians lost their lives in a battle for freedom. We wear a poppy as a symbol of remembrance for all those who gave their lives. Remembrance Day ceremonies are not a glorification of war. They are part of a day set aside to recognize the sacrifices made by individuals in order to maintain freedom. What is important here is the verb "maintain." A political entity threatened to impede upon a people's freedom and the only means left to protect and maintain that freedom was armed conflict - it is not glorified if you remember the sacrifces made by those players.

I fear that a new generation of Canadians are removing the human cost of war from their definitions of Remembrance Day. Without proper credence to the human element, we run the risk of trivializing war and rendering those individuals lost as simple statistics. We would be quicker to make destructive decisions when the true losses attributed to conflict are not recognized.

As time goes on, fewer and fewer veterans will be available to teach us about the horrors they endured. It is up to subsequent generations to ensure that the sacrifices made by these indivudals are not forgotten. As Canadians we enjoy many freedoms and it is our duty to ensure that we will always remember the cost for those blessings and those who paid for them.

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