I think that Remembrance Day glorifies war. Some say that Remembrance Day is a time when we get to celebrate our freedom, a freedom hard-won by the brave veterans who fought and died to ensure it for us. Only, that’s a pretty simple story. The story is certainly warm and fuzzy and full of sentimentality, and so being it sticks, and is swallowed, and can be easily regurgitated for others to swallow.
However, the slogans of remembrance ignore the reasons for war and the horrific results. They ignore the profit making and the deal hatching that keeps wars going, and that often starts them in the first place. (Would war exist if it were not profitable?) The slogans, they also ignore the reality that it's a nation’s poor who fight its wars - and only against another nation’s poor. (Would war exist if it was fought by those who declare it?) And it ignores the reality that wars never seem to bring about peace; that they only seem to ever lay the groundwork for further wars. (Violence sets a precedent for more violence.)
And what of the unintended victims, the countless civilians caught in the crossfire; these people aren‘t recognised or remembered with great memorial (I suppose that dead babies muddy the waters of valour and victory.)
I think that if you are commemorating killers, you should commemorate them all. If we’re remembering those that killed (or helped kill, or died trying) then it only makes sense to celebrate all of the folk who do the very same. After all, the bloke born in Manchester, had he been born in Munich, would have answered his nation’s call to arms all the same. No? And furthermore, much has been said in recent years of the militant martyr, dying for his cause, and the evil of his ways; but, is the violent religious fanatic not exactly the same as any First or Second World War volunteer, the one we are asked to remember?
Aren’t they precisely the same as any of the thousands of kids who bought into the propaganda campaign hatched by their government, who answered the call to defend their nation under threat, who went to fight for what was right and good and just? Is today’s suicide bomber all that different from the sixteen year old who went off to a land he did not know, to kill an enemy he had never seen, for a reason he could not articulate but to recite the line on the poster he’d read in his local newspaper, or plastered on his church wall? …We tell him of the greater good; we give him all manner of righteous reason; we train him not to think for himself; we show him how to kill, and we give him the tools to do it; we offer him camaraderie, and a sense of belonging; we tell him that he is loved and that in death he will find peace; and then we drop him off on some distant shore to take as many lives as he can… Where is the difference? I don't see it.
In my mind, you can't remember the horrible cost of war and suggest that it is the worst of all evils, while at the very same time label all the brave souls who fought as heroes and recount the great battles and celebrate our victory; and yet, that's just what we do. This is why we throw "freedom" in there to smooth it all over and diffuse any questioning. "Well, it was the worst thing ever, and we'd never do it again, but it had to be done for our freedom." Nobody can argue against "freedom." Only, that's how we have justified every war in modern history, for the Boer war on...
This is what all the brave boys over in Iraq and Afghanistan believe they're up to: they're insuring their own freedom and the freedom of the nation they occupy.
I think we need to declare war as either a good thing, or bad thing, and we should stick with it. I think that it can be just that clear cut: you're either committed to peace or you're making excuses to justify war... Bush was right when he said, "You're either with us or against us."
The trouble with that statement, and what got everyone so upset, is that it forces whole nations to be honest. Nations, and individuals, don't like to be truly honest, and seldom are, because it exposes ones beliefs and intentions. Playing both sides, as we most often do, gives us an escape route, a defence, and allows us to benefit regardless of the outcome. This kind of bifurcated thinking is insane.
Canada, for instance, can't officially be against the war in Iraq AND support the American war machine, while also sending ships, personnel, and logistics equipment to the Persian Gulf -- but, of course, that's exactly what we do.
You can't sign a nuclear non-proliferation treaty, nuclear-test-ban treaty AND export most of the world's uranium; however, that's just the game we like to play. This is hypocrisy, at best. Unfortunately, this is the juggling act were are always asked to make, the partitioning of our brains to allow for psychotic behaviour to go ahead. And this is how this psychosis becomes normalized, indistinguishable from "normal" behaviour.
There is wrong and right. War or peace? It will mean that we can't preach peace while making war, and it may mean that you live in a world where killing someone because they disagree with you, or because they have something you want, is not okay... Can you handle it?
I want to celebrate a day when war was averted: a day when brave, intelligent, thoughtful people, despite all odds, stood in the way of the war machine. And I want every school child to learn about it, and all of its nuances. And I want them to learn how difficult the struggles were to prevent war, and how the people involved are all heroes for having saved millions of lives. And I want them to learn about how the world is a safer, better, more sane place for having not fought a war. And I want them all to learn about all the sacrifices that were made for this commitment to peace. And I want there to be built a park, in every city, with a monument at its center, acknowledging the tremendous valour and dignity, and the horrendous simplicity and narrow-mindedness that is violence. And then I want a thousand movies to be made to commemorate the people and places of significance… for that would be something to remember.