|Morning Sun at Little Manitou|
Remembrance Day, 2012: Today was a travel day, so I spent about 250 kilometres of the drive listening to Rex Murphy's Cross Country Check-up . . . on remembering. When I got home, I had the letter below from good friends Hugh and Ethel.
(My words on Remembrance Day were recorded on You Tube a few years ago, and they can be revisited at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e9S0Ri9lXTk&feature=plcp
Meanwhile, I share with you Hugh and Ethel's letter, which says it so well. Hugh hopes it will give me an idea for a blog, but I can't think why I'd rewrite this wonderful reflection!)
Ethel and I were listening to CBC while we were driving today and there was quite a bit of talk about Remembrance Day. That listening gave rise to some thought and some discussion. We thought we'd share some of it with you in case it might stimulate you to do a blog on the topic.
There is a subtle twist in thinking involved in Remembrance Day. The implicit question in the usual discourse around Remembrance Day is: "Aren't you grateful for the sacrifice those wonderful men and women made so that you can live in freedom?"
Yes, I am moved by the memory of those whom I knew who lost their lives or came home with bodies that were crippled from the effects of war. I remember as a teenager going to St. Boniface Hospital to visit a neighbor who was a veteran of the First World War. He had been gassed and spent the rest of his life with lungs that didn't serve him well. I inquired as to where I would find him only to be told that he had died. I remember Jack, our close neighbor, who came through the depression with his family and was so happy with the meals that he was served when he joined the army. He was wounded when he landed with the Canadians at Dieppe and was taken back to England where he died of wounds. I remember the pain his family suffered while he suffered in England and then was taken from them. I remember church services when we moved to Winnipeg; each Sunday morning part of the list of names of those who were in the Services was read out. Then there were the Sunday mornings in which other words were added after the names: Missing in action; Missing and presumed dead; Killed in action. I remember the young man from our farm community who was in Hong Kong when the Japanese arrived. Rather than be taken prisoner, he was last seen swimming out to sea where he perished.
But the ones I remember constitute only a very small part of the human cost of war. There was the total cost in Allied lives during WWIi, the military personnel on the other side who also paid the supreme price, the civilians on both sides who lost limbs or lives, and the millions who were considered enemies of the state or potential enemies of the state who were transported to interment camps or to death chambers. And that was only WWII. The total cost of war is horrific; it is not to be glorified.
Yes, I remember. But my first emotion is not gratitude. It is closer to something like anger. Whose purposes were served by the deaths of these young men? What has been done to the thinking of humanity that it does not rise up against this senseless activity that we call war? Why do those who have risen to power in government think that it is appropriate for them to expect that young men and women will be willing to die for causes that should have been settled in other ways?
Yes, there is disagreement and conflict among human beings. But rather than perpetuating the cycle of violence that leads to war, humanity must learn other means of problem solving. Violence in all its forms is inappropriate. Violence needs to be identified and named for what it is. Question period in the House of Commons perpetuates verbal violence. Violence in professional sports is a teaching tool. The use of physical pain as a means of discipline in training children in the home and elsewhere teaches children that violence is appropriate. We speak loudly against bullying but validate it when we cheer violent behavior in hockey and other sports and spend time watching violent shows on television.
Humanity will take a huge step forward when it stops responding emotionally to provocation and works at identifying the real problem so that solutions that are acceptable to everyone can be sought. If we could step beyond irrational motivations for conflict such as nationalism or our sense of superiority and recognize the equal humanity of everyone, we might begin to reduce violence.
Training is important and the best place to start that is in the home and then the school. Parenting that focuses on problem solving rather than punishment does much more to get children on the side of working together. There are parenting methods that help in this direction. Communities benefit when these methods are applied also in schools and in the community in general.
I hope that we as the human race are moving in the direction of peace. The cost of war is too high and war is too dangerous. A fraction of the cost of the US military could bring prosperity to the world. The loss of life can no longer be counted by the number of military personnel who die. The cost in civilian casualties, lost lives, maimed bodies, mental and emotional wounding, destroyed infrastructure, and cultural destruction all are part of the cost of war. The costs of war are costs to both sides and they impact the whole world.
There are much better ways. We are a long way from ending war. But surely that is a goal that we might all commit ourselves and our society to pursue. This Remembrance Day, let us remember those who were caught in fighting wars with respect and honor them and their memory. But let us not use their lost lives as a way of glorifying war with its destruction.
George, thanks for listening, [if that's what we are doing when we read]. It probably did me good to give expression to this concern. I don't know what you might do with this other than file it. But it might be grist for some morning coffee break mill.
Hugh & Ethel [who read a draft and made helpful comments].