Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Remembrance Day 2020: What Poor Memories We Have

Canadian Memorial at Vimy
It has become a Semi-Spew tradition to post pictures from my various travels to war museums and memorials and war cemeteries on this day to mark this day and to note that the Canadians and the Commonwealth countries do this day so well.  And to marvel that a war that is no longer in living memory resonates so much.  Yet this year, I can't help but think about the other event of that time, the flu pandemic, that we learned .... from which we learned damn near nothing.

I don't know if the COVID responses in the US and Canada would be different now if we had spent the past 100 years remembering the pandemic that killed far more people than the war did.  As an overeducated American, I learned nothing in school about the flu of 1918-1920.  Nothing at all.  I learned more in March than I did in the previous 50 years.  I learned about flattening curves and about how different cities treated the disease differently and getting, unsurprisingly, different outcomes.  I learned about anti-maskers way back when and all of that.  

Aussie War Memorial
But perhaps I can't blame the lack of public education about pandemics because we sure as hell have a lot of information and learning since March yet provinces and states still vary widely in what they are requiring, and what they are closing.  We still see so much variation in what people are doing, even as both countries are facing spikes that exceed the worst of the first wave.  How many refrigerated trucks are moving to El Paso to store the dead?  How many hospitals are near the breaking point?  

As a result of all this, this Remembrance Day is not like any other up here, as the streets are barricaded to keep people away from the War Memorial.  People will have to join online events or contemplate events on their own.  I happened only yesterday to get a poppy as I was, um, buying booze for a lava cake recipe (and it was really, really good).  Usually, there is peer pressure to get poppies as soon as we bring in the Halloween decorations.  Not this year, as I have rarely been outside and have not been to any gatherings since a meeting in July.  I wish everyone was taking this as seriously as my friends and family.  

Memorials to the Canadians who
fell in Afghanistan (Camp Mirage)

Back to Remembrance day, the war definitely helped to take a disease and facilitate its spread. This is one reason why every conflict I see these days, one of my first thoughts is what is this doing to exacerbate the pandemic, whether it is Ethiopia this week or Armenia/Azerbaijan last wee or Syria over the summer.  So, on this Remembrance Day, I remember the soldiers who died of the flu as the various dynamics of the war caused many, many young people to be struck down before their lives could really get started. 

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