Day 4 of 32 – Let’s put the Remember back in Remembrance Day

12 Nov

Walking around parts of Istanbul today it was impossible to tell that it was Remembrance Day. There were no poppies. No flyovers. No 21-gun salutes. From what I understand, in the Great War Turkey was on the “losing” side*. Most of what I know about history comes from the movies (even ones I have not seen) and Gallipoli (1981) had Mel Gibson (on Team Commonwealth, “victors”) invading some remote part of Turkey (Jesse please correct in the comments any of the inaccuracies in this post).

Anyway, it seems to me that lately on Remembrance Day, we’re “remembering” the wrong sorts of things. From what I read it’s mostly about the “sacrifice” of the pour souls who died (and survived) objectively horrible circumstances and my heart breaks when I think about these people (or any people) suffering like people do in war.

But when people use the term sacrifice in a Remembrance Day context, it seems to me like they have this idea that when a soldier dies in war it’s akin to (spoiler alert) Gene Hackman at the end of The Poseidon Adventure (1972) where his actual (but cinematic) sacrifice saved the lives of the other actors. But that’s not war. Not even close. And while there can be found many localized examples of wartime acts of meaningful sacrifice, on the whole, a wartime death is a pointless one.

So I’d like to propose that this year, in addition to those who died, we remember something different. Specifically, remember 2003 when Canada decided not to participate in the Iraq War. Today, a significant number of voting-age Canadians are too young to appreciate what was going on back then. So with the benefit of hindsight, I’ve prepared an analogy to help them understand.

You know that one night when all your friends were going out to get really drunk in a dodgy bar in a sketchy part of town and you knew in you heart that it would turn into a shit show so you stayed home even though they were pressuring you to join them? And it ended up that you were right and they got into this big fight over something made up and several people ended up in the hospital and some were arrested and a decade later they’re still dealing with the fallout from this one night.

And afterwards, while you helped your friends when you could – driving them to their physiotherapy appointments and court-appointed anger management classes – you were secretly really pleased with yourself for making the right decision to stay home that night.

I mean, there’s no question you made the right decision – compared to your friends you’re much better off. Your reputation is mostly intact. You’ve got a lot more free time and disposable income that you can direct at more worthwhile endeavours. Like that second floor bathroom fan that needs to be repaired. Or fixing the outdoor speakers by the hot tub. That really nice girl you met recently – you can take her to New York for a few days in January. Everyone loves New York.

Yes, that was Canada back in 2003. And it’s also us now.

So this year, I want you to remember all the good times over the previous decade that you had with your military friends who didn’t get sent to Iraq in 2003. Remember playing regular hockey with them. Remember their minds not being warped by having to spend months or even years in a war zone under the constant threat of sudden death by IEDs and sniper fire. Remember their nightmare-free sleeps where they didn’t have to relive the horrible things normal people end up seeing, experiencing, and doing when they get deployed in a combat role to an active war zone. Remember them being here. Remember them still being here.

Remember that in 2001 Canada did decide to participate in the war in Afghanistan and that too many of our soldiers have come back damaged physically and mentally or not at all.

Also remember all the people that do end up in war. And more importantly, try to make it so that they don’t.

Anyway, sorry about the serious post. I’m pretty sure most of you come here to lighten your day, not heavyen it. And not wanting to disappoint, last night at the pub I was chatting up the two Serbian ladies at the table next to me. While discussing the cistern they asked me if I “put my finger in the hole and made a full circle for happiness”. Apparently there’s a Blarney Stone-like feature of the Roman cistern where one has to rotate ones hand around a fixed point for “happiness”. But I didn’t know that and I found it to be a pretty funny thing for them to say.

* note how one of the “winners” of the Great War (France) still has giant swaths of their country that are uninhabitable due the large quantity of unexploded munitions that have been there for almost a century.

2 Responses to “Day 4 of 32 – Let’s put the Remember back in Remembrance Day”

  1. Jason Chapman (@jasonAchapman) November 12, 2014 at 14:42 #

    I think you make some good points, but more importantly, an overarching good point about what we should be thinking about. It’s good to remember fallen soldiers, even in a poetic, heroic way once a year; honour their contribution to the citizenry’s current peacetime benefits. But, I see a lot of avoidance in my own sphere of reference when it comes to attention paid to matters of foreign policy, philosophical leanings, morality and motivations of our decision-makers. People like to sit quietly and assume things are being done with good reason. Since they don’t have access to the actual reasons they choose to hope for the best and carry on.

    Considering the real and personal effects of war is something that each person should be doing. Allowing it to be packaged and filtered into a machine of progress that produces heroes and martyrs means not only a steady stream of new recruits being sent into mortal situations for nebulous reasons but also it furthers the distance of the average citizen from the truth of our leaders’ motivations for going to war.

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