When I think about what Remembrance Day means I get a little sad. Have we forgotten, despite the namesake, that on this day in 1918 at 11am the First World War came to an end.
World War One was the first industrialized war and its devastation was unprecedented, a true horror that we as humans should look back on with shame and regret. Yet not more than 20 years later, we were back at it: this time, it was the total war of World War Two. Millions where killed, soldiers and civilians alike.
The poem In Flanders Fields is where this tradition comes from, and it is a harrowing tribute to the dead. It calls upon us to take up their “quarrel with the foe,” and this is where it gets sticky for us. The surface call is to keep fighting, as the saying goes “ours in not to reason why,” yet this makes little sense as those who have seen war face-to-face are reluctant to engage in it. So, perhaps the foe is war itself? Or, more accurately, the those who would use war as a political solution to their goals.
We don’t need to glorify the horrors of war to respect those who have shouldered the role of national service. Hero worship is the flipside of that same coin that uses war as tool.
Our culture no longer goes to war against a specific enemy, but rather a concept that has no clear definition, no clear army or apparatus to dismantle and thus defeat. The wars on terror and drugs are again only political tools used to take advantage of our most selfless citizens. There is no glory to be had when they come home, as we give them only one day of recognition and it is filled with hollow lip service, especially given the way those same soldiers are treated once their battle is over.
Makes one wonder who the moment of silence is really for.