November 11th is Remembrance Day in Canada, and throughout most of the British Commonwealth. The UK itself has an additional observance on the Sunday closest to the 11th to make it easier for people to attend a ceremony.
I’ve made a big deal in the past about how Remembrance Day provides meaning and support to any and every other holiday in the calendar, about how whole generations fought and bled and died to ensure the continuance of society as we’ve grown to know it. My father was born in an occupied country. My mother’s father and several uncles went overseas during World War II. She had a grandfather who served in World War I. My father joined the military here and I came of age at the height of the Cold War. Remembrance Day was a big thing when I was young and I’ve tried to hold onto it. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve also tried to never miss the opportunity to thank WWII vets when I find them, and they’re getting hard to find.
I still think Remembrance Day is critically important, but I’m having a hard time with what it’s become.
It’s hard for me to see it as more than performative activism by politicians anymore. Support the troops and the sacrifices they make, but don’t look too closely at what they’re being asked to sacrifice for these days. It’s become more important for public figures to be seen remembering than to actually remember. And it’s definitely become more important to show unwavering devotion to the poppy as a symbol in and of itself rather than what it’s supposed to represent.
You only have to look at the political reaction to the manufactured controversy surrounding Whole Foods and their 11 Canadian stores to see that.
As individuals, we wear poppies for individual reasons, to remember people, conflicts, history. But as a society, we’ve forgotten the point. The poppy is a mark of mourning and remembrance, a reminder that we need to do everything we can to prevent war from rising again and to care for its victims when it does.
So maybe we shouldn’t ask too many questions about how our government conducts itself in the more difficult parts of the world. We won’t like some of the answers.
Stay safe and be well, everyone.by