While I accord the proper respect to the spirit of Remembrance Day every year there are certain questions that I always ponder when I hear the patriotic rhetoric that inevitably surfaces when this day appears.
"We honour our heroes that sacrificed their lives to defend our rights, way of life..." While I cannot dispute that our soldiers went overseas to fight and our side incurred heavy casualties, they in all honesty were not serving to protect our rights, way of life, etc. In both World War I and II, Canada was not under attack from anyone. We may have had a few remote skirmishes off our waters but our lands were not threatened. Our way of life, our government, our day to day lives were not invaded by any opportune enemy force.
Our reason for partaking in the First World War was a microcosm of why the Great War started. It was largely started because the various countries involved gave blank-check assurances to their respective allies which polarized into two opposing forces. Canada and the United States sided with Great Britain and her allies. Our veterans from that era went to war to honour that specific alliance. The conclusion of that war saw the Allies suppress and humiliate the Germans so much that within twenty years, German bitterness and resentment for being treated as such transformed into vengeance that fueled a desire to overwhelm anything and everything in its path.
As bad and destructive as the Great War was, World War II was even worse. The destruction of lands and human life was at a level never seen before. Again, Canadian troops went in to fulfill its alliances to its commonwealth mother Great Britain. Our war veterans sacrifices were very real but those sacrifices were more as a defense for our allies over in Europe and not for the inhabitants of our own country.
There are two things that strike me every Remembrance Day. The first is this global day remains confined to exclusively national and patriotic fervor. Each country takes time to reflect on its own veterans with little pause to consider the sacrifices of veterans in other countries. Americans do little to pause for remembrance of Dieppe much like Canadians give little pause for British fighting in North Africa. Secondly, very few people give any reflection to the innocent civilians - men, women and children who lost their lives throughout these destructive military conflicts. We strive to recognize the agents of force (the soldiers) while conveniently forgetting those murdered, raped, wounded or tortured through no fault of their own. Where is the day to remember their lives stolen unmercifully from them?
It is within these contexts that we should observe Remembrance day under a far more encompassing lens. Let Remembrance Day allow us to learn that precious lesson of just how destructive and heartbreaking war was and can be. Let the day be more globally remembered beyond our borders that war was an international and global tragedy that affected hundreds of millions of people and not just our own soldiers. Finally, let the day allow us to move forward that we may never again relive those destructive ways in a present or future tense.