Remembrance Day : What I remember and honour.

Posted: November 11, 2013 in Current Events, Philosophical Debris

I posted a version of this two years ago.  My feelings haven’t changed.

What I remember on Remembrance Day:

1. I honour he sacrifices of life and limb and more by soldiers fighting to maintain freedom and oppose tyranny.  War is hell, and these soldiers were required to endure hell for the better good.  I don’t think that we can begin to understand the sacrifice, even of those who survived and came home.

2. I honour the freedom for which they fought.  For all of us to continue to practise, uphold and defend that freedom in our daily lives is possibly the greatest honour we can give to fallen and surviving soldiers.  If their sacrifice was in the name of defending freedom, we have a responsibility to carry that freedom, buy voting, protecting the integrity of the country and being involved.  Apathy emerges in a particularly bad light on Remembrance Day.

3.  I honour peace.  To remember the hell of war is to try and spare the current and future generations from having to suffer the same sacrifices.  While a soldier can feel honour and pride in having defended his/her country, I don’t think any would want the same visited on today’s children if it can be avoided.  Sometimes it can’t be, which is why sacrifices are necessary.  But in the name of what they’ve endured, we must strive to make future sacrifices unnecessary.

I feel that to honour #1 without considering #2 and #3 is somewhat hollow.  Sincere respect involves allowing our understanding to have influence outside of a single day. 

  1. Michael says:

    Agreed. I’d add a few things, though.

    We talk a lot about the sacrifices made by the soldiers themselves, those that didn’t return and those that returned to restricted lives due to mental or physical injuries, but often glide over the pain and loss suffered by their families. Their sacrifice and loss should also be recognized and remembered. There are also all the other people in the war. The civilians hit by collateral damage, the merchant marines, etc.

    Benjamin Franklin said “Those Who Sacrifice Liberty For Security Deserve Neither.” I don’t believe this should be quoted blindly or in every situation where it has been quoted, but I do think there is a message there.

    Liberty and freedom were hard fought for. We dishonour the lives lost and squander the sacrifices made when we institute half-baked (often xenophobic) measures instead of well thought out security processes and protocols. Abbreviating civil rights “for the greater good” has an enormous downside that is most of the time ignored.

    Peace, such an important thing when we were growing up, seems to have lost lustre and fallen out of common discourse. Peace is, essentially, the art of war avoided. the learning from previous mistakes. How to stop one tyrant without tyrannical loss. It should be a critical part of diplomacy.

    Canada, as we were growing up, played an essential role in this – the UN peacekeeping forces, etc. I don’t understand how or when it was downgraded. The UN, never really taken as seriously as one might wish, has lost effectiveness. But I think we need to get peace back into the forefront of our discussions, either through the UN or some other mechanism.

    If war is hell and to be avoided at all reasonable costs, where is the mechanism for doing so?

  2. pwiinholt says:

    I very much agree. When I was teaching, I often tried to have a component devoted to “peace” included in the Remembrance Day ceremonies, …not to diminish the sacrifice of the vets, but to add that next dimension. Sometimes it was accepted and included. Sometimes it wasn’t. But I did notice that in latter years the tolerance for that kind of augmented message was less.

  3. Michael says:

    The canonical answer is always – don’t politicize Remembrance Day – it’s the one day a year. And I get that. But then we do nothing with the information the other 364 days. So where’s the sense in that? Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

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