I remember listening to silence on the radio, unaccustomed, eerie silence, while my mother stood nearby and the rain fell softly against the glass. A long time before, many people had died at war. I listened through the static, trying to picture myself there, trying to understand a sacrifice we all pay homage to.
I didn’t grow up a pacifist, and I didn’t grow up a patriot. Like many Canadians, my default war heros are medics, peacekeepers, negotiators. You know, those guys who negotiate within an established framework and build multilateral consensus. Us Canadians really like multilateral consensus. But is that what our countrymen died for, on the beaches of Normandy?
I’ve been to Juno Beach. I watched little kids swim in the light blue waters where a thousand Canadians died, most of them young men with earnest smiles and uncertain eyes. I know this will sound controversial, but it’s a blog so I’ll just forge ahead: I don’t like WWII Germany. Those guys really shouldn’t have been building bunkers above those sand cliffs, really shouldn’t have been invading, slaughtering, and whatnot. I’m proud of the Canadians who fought and died on that day. If they had failed, if we all had failed on different fronts, we would be remembering things very differently. I haven’t been to many battlegrounds, so when I remember our fallen troops I remember sunny Juno, were we fought against evil.
Or did we?
Throughout our history, did brave men and women really fall “against evil”, and while “defending our freedoms”, or did they fall because they were violently killed by other brave men and women defending a different set of freedoms or at least following a different set of orders? Probably yes.
Did the lessons of the World Wars lead the way for a wiser Canada, a Canada who will never fight except in the cause of peace? Apparently no.
Remembrance day commemorates our losses against each other, our sacrifices against violence, discrimination, and organized hatred. That’s what I wear the poppy for. Not for glory, or democracy, or national defence (and I’m looking at you PMSH). I wear the poppy to remember that loss, as I believe all war is, in the end.
Here’s to peace, eh?