Culture

REMEMBRANCE DAY

From Canadian writer Richard Wallace

The wars that gave birth to Remembrance Day were fought a long time ago. They were fought decades and generations ago. The younger folk of today could hardly be expected to understand the hurt, the fear, or the terror of war. Loved ones lost under the most terrible of circumstances.

For so many Remembrance Day is a day of diminished importance, a day off, a holiday.

Remembrance Day was never intended to be thought of as a holiday. It was to be a day to remember, a day of mourning for the lost lives and sacrifices of thousands of young men and women. It was to be a day to grieve for all of those men and women who served Canada so well. It was a day to honor their families and loved ones left behind; left behind to cope in a world that was not of their doing.

It was a day to remember.

Remembrance Day is a day to remember the hardship and torment of all of those men and women who served in World War I; the war to end all wars. They died for the citizens of Canada and others. They died for us and if World War 1 wasn’t bad enough, we grieve for those lost in World War 11. We grieve for those lost in Korea and the wars that have

  followed.

  The hurt of war.

Remembrance Day is a special day like no other. It is a day to pay tribute to the tens of thousands of men and women who gave up their lives so that we could be free. A day to honor those who returned from the war so very deeply scarred, physically and too often mentally.

Some scars never did heal.

Remembrance Day is a day to honor the hard work and struggle of the men and women who stayed behind and contributed mightily to the war effort. They worked long and exhausting days and nights doing what ever needed to be done.

Remembrance Day is a day to honor mothers and fathers, grandparents and others who opened their homes to newly married daughters and new born babies while their husbands were fighting in a war thousands of miles away.

There were so many people affected in so many ways.

Remembrance Day was never intended to be a holiday. It was a day to honor all of those who lost loved ones, loved ones by the thousands, sometimes all on the same day, sometimes all in one horrible battle.

The youth of a nation slaughtered.

They were slaughtered by the thousands in a war that was not of their making.

Instead of growing up they were sent off to war.

Instead of finding jobs they were sent off to war.

Instead of getting married and the like

they were packed up and sent off to war.

Remembrance Day is a day to pay tribute to those men of World War 1 who spent days, weeks and months in the half frozen and rain soaked trenches of Europe; at times within hearing distance of their enemy.

Imagine boots and clothing soaked for days on end and nights so freezing cold. Think of the winter nights of freezing rain and snow. Think about it.  There wasn’t any peace in the trenches.

There wasn’t any place to hide.

They were sent to the trenches where the sweet wine of youth and body parts were mixed with the slime of rain and muck and human waste. There were rivers of human sewage to infect open wounds, wounds too gruesome to describe. There were clouds of rain and snow and clouds of mustard gas.

The horrors of war were never far away.

It was from this that Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae wrote In Flanders Fields, a beautiful poem. We don’t hear it as often as we used to but it is still a part of Remembrance Day.

It was from here that men were so shell shocked that when they returned to Canada some of them could be seen running down the streets in front of trolley busses thinking that they were being chased by the tanks of the enemy. In that era these mentally ill men were often thought of as cowards. That was their thanks. Perhaps the men who were shot and killed were better off.

Their struggle was over.

Imagine having arms and legs blown off or a stomach ripped open by shrapnel, seeing your own intestines spilling out onto the ground. Could it be that the lucky ones were the ones who died the quickest?

It is this nightmare that brings us together on Remembrance Day.

Today we live in such a vastly different world; so different from the world of one hundred years ago. Just as our world has changed so has our view of history. We have tweaked and sanitized much of the dark side of our history, as though we would like to protect our young folk from the horrors of war. It is little wonder that we have come to think of Remembrance Day as a day of diminished importance.

So we remember.

We remember in our own way. We can remember in a church, at a cenotaph or privately. We can remember in a group or we can remember alone. I don’t believe that a person needs to be seen remembering; just to remember is enough.

Remembering often could be the best.

We do all of those who paid such a heavy price a disservice by thinking of the 11’th day of November as a day off, a holiday, and now a sobering thought.

We remember

We honor

We care

Do we ever learn?

poppies 2


4 replies »

  1. No, Richard, we don’t learn. We’re human. Individually, we learn, sometimes. As a species, we don’t appear to learn a damn thing. Apart from more effective ways to harm each other, and the world about us.
    After a ‘normal’ bomb exploded, or a battle took place, the land could recover, quite quickly. After a nuclear bomb is dropped……………..
    And yet nuclear bombs still exist, and, as we write, are probably being further developed, as though they need to be, as if just one isn’t enough.
    People.
    Here’s a poem. By Bjork…………………

    “Human Behaviour

    if you ever get close to a human
    and human behaviour
    be ready to get confused.

    there’s definitely no logic
    to human behaviour
    but yet so irresistible

    there’s no map
    to human behaviour

    they’re terribly moody
    then all of a sudden turn happy
    but, oh, to get involved in the exchange
    of human emotions is ever so satisfying

    there’s no map
    and a compass
    wouldn’t help at all

    human behaviour”

    Bjork

    She’s right. We can be so………………………
    And yet we can also be so……………………….

    Did you see this? https://theorkneynews.scot/2017/08/29/bernie-bell-remembering/

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  2. Hi Bernie. Thank you for your comments on my article on Remembrance Day and the poem on human behaviour. All so true. The crimes against humanity are endless and so on going….I also enjoyed your article on Remembrance….and the removal of statutes, erasing history and so on. We have removed a few of our own but I think that rather that sanitize history we should put up an informational display explaining why a particular person has fallen out of favour, misdeeds that he or she has committed…whatever…and use it as a teaching moment..out of sight and out of mind doesn’t serve any useful purpose….oh well…thank you for catching up to me, Richard

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