Monday, November 11, 2019

Remembrance Day, 2019

American cemetery at Omaha Beach
One of the advantages of doing medium N work that requires a heap of travel is that I have been to war museums and memorials in Australia, Japan, South Korea, France, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany including American and Canadian cemeteries in Europe.  I have taken to posting pictures from my various trips on Remembrance Day (what used to be known as Armistice Day and is called Veterans' Day in the US).  This year is particularly special one, I think.

Juno Beach
Why?  Partly because I got to see more of Normandy this year--the American cemetery at Omaha Beach is so very beautiful and very haunting, and I got to see briefly Juno Beach, where the Canadians landed.  Partly because there are so few left from those who fought on those beaches and elsewhere during that war.  Partly because the rise of Neo-Nazis and their friends raise questions about the sacrifices and what we have learned and failed to learn.  Partly because we cannot seem to end any of the forever wars.  Partly because this year's Vimy Gala had a bit of a punch to it with the recognition of this year's Silver Cross Mother present (each year a mother who lost a son or daughter in war is recognized).  Partly because I am getting old, I guess. 

Each year, especially since I moved to Ottawa, I realize the Commonwealth countries do this day right, better than the American version.  My daughter when to a school named after John McRae, who wrote In Flanders Field.  Which, I guess, is what made the poppies so central to our remembrance activities.  This year, there has been more discussion of what the poppies mean, whether we should be required (!) to wear them, whether the racists on national television (Don Cherry) should be banned for arguing that immigrants don't wear the poppy, and so on.  Yes, we live in more polarizing times, and it touches on everything.

For this Remembrance Day, I will try to remember the ideas for which these folks sacrificed their lives, knowing that we have fallen short both before and now.  We ought not idealize the conflicts of the past, but we should still take seriously that those who go to war are doing it for their friends, their family, their battle buddies, their country, regardless of whether the politicians and generals who lead them are well-intentioned or not. 

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