Thoughts on Remembrance Day

The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. How appropriate for remembering.

I received a Remembrance Day note from my local civic councillor this morning which reminded me of how close we still are to the sacrifices made for us by those who serve in our armed forces. Jim Karygiannis, the councillor for my voting ward in Agincourt, lost five cousins and relatives to a roadside bomb in Afghanistan, that benighted country that is still in the Stone Age. Except that these Stone Age people have access to guns and explosives. It’s like a bad science fiction novel, except that it’s real, and now.

At almost the same time  I read a fatuous piece in the local paper about how we should wear the remembrance poppy. Apparently we are dissing our veterans if we don’t wear it on the left side, above our hearts. Only appropriate to wear it for the first eleven days of November. Allowable to wear it for other remembrance ceremonies like Air Force and Navy Day, or days of mourning for police, fire, and civic functionaries.

A more facetious piece of  twaddle I have rarely encountered. I wear the poppy year round on my cap; stuck on the sun visor of my car; above my  desk; any place I can so I really NEVER forget the sacrifices made for our democracy. Remembrance and cenotaph ceremonies are all very well, but we tend to watch or participate in those rituals–then forget them for the rest of the year.

I, too, lost friends and relatives: in the First World War at Gallipoli and in France; in the Second World War in the Battle of Britain; and in Burma. They were all young because war devours the children of our race, scarcely ever the elderly as collateral damage. It takes the best, the brightest, the most fundamental young people of our society, and it never gives them back.

When I’m driving down the street I give thanks that in this country, at least, there aren’t explosives waiting by the side of the road to blow me to kingdom come. I think of the vets who have returned home with terrible memories of the sorties they’ve been on, and with PTSD (what an oxymoron that is–Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome). Inability to sleep, stress on young families, sometimes even suicide because they can’t escape the events of the battlefield. It almost seems sacrilegious to give thanks for persons who endure such torment.

Then to read a fatuous piece of journalistic prose exhorting me to wear the poppy only at approved times and in approved places. It is to weep.

So I ignore such strictures. I know they come from those of small minds and less knowledge. I’m too polite to call them ignorant, but I’m tempted. I’ll just go on remembering in my own way, and never forgetting that war never solves anything except the whittling down of a society by unnatural means. I will remember. I will never forget.

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