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
by Today is June 6, 2014.
Close your eyes and step back seventy years as one hundred fifty thousand soldiers spill out of boats and charge the German fortifications at Normandy. They ultimately break through and begin the fall of the Third Reich, but at a frightening cost in death and blood.
In Copenhagen, far, far behind the new front line, my grandmother is seven months pregnant with my father. The war won’t be over when he’s born, the youngest of seven children, but the end will be in sight, though very few realize it yet.
His family emigrates to Canada in 1956.
In 1966, while attending RMC, he meets my mother.
They marry in 1968.
And I’m born in 1970, 26 ½ years, plus a bit, after D-Day, all of which gives me a personal outlook on the resolution of World War II, as it does probably for many people who were born in the decades since, if they stop to think about.
Do you see the chain?
Had the D-Day invasion been unsuccessful, had the Nazis managed to fight off, somehow, the Allied invasion force, my father would still have it born. And while there’s no way to say that the allies would not have tried again, another time, another place, it might’ve been years later. And if they had, things would have been very different.
My father’s family, under the Nazis, would certainly not have been permitted to emigrate in 1956. He would not have met my mother. They would not have gotten married. I would not have been born.
Had D-day failed, I think there I have good reason to believe that I would not exist.
But wait! What about the atomic bomb? Surely, the Allies would’ve use that against the Nazis if the Reich had still existed when it was ready. Maybe, but it took two bombs and as many hundred thousand dead to convince Japanese. Would it have taken the same to convince the Nazis? Where would those two craters be and what would’ve been the impact on all of the European history sense? The face the shape of Europe would like to be quite different. With a pair of craters in Germany, Denmark right next-door, when does the fall out go? And not just the radioactive fallout, but the political, social, and economic fallout. What happens next?
It’s too easy to dive into wild speculations, but I suspect, for one poor Danish family looking for a better life, they might have been stuck where they were.
My father would never have come to Canada, never met and married my mother, and I would never have been born.
I never miss a chance to shake the hand of the World War II vet, and say thank you. The chances don’t come as often as they used to, and even on Remembrance Day when they got together, there are fewer and fewer. After all, D-Day was 70 years ago.
But I won’t forget. Ever. I can’t, because I owe my existence to the D-Day invasion force, and all of those who came after.
Take a moment and remember.by