Monday, November 11, 2013

Remembering - Hiting and Missing the Point

"Year after year, more old men disappear,
Soon no one
will march there
at all..."

from 'the Band Played Waltzing Matilda' written by Eric Bogle •

I had made this tune the centre of my annual  Remembrance Day piece in 2008.

Despite the fact that my own military service was short (1972 - 76) and limited (Canadian Forces Reserves), it had a major impact on my development into an adult. It framed much of my attitudes and methods. I was trained by (slightly) older men, a number of who had fought in Viet Nam. Lessons learned in that cauldron were passed to me, and that place and those times are in large part what shaped me to the man I would become.
 In the years following I would meet a large number of people (many Americans, but not exclusively) who were reflections of that shattered mirror of the late 1960's and early 1970's. A man who said he was the second soldier to set foot into My Lia (and yes, on that infamous day). A woman who was so opposed to the War she got a job in a munitions factory, then deliberately passed defective mortar round fuses she inspected. Canadians that enlisted 'for the adventure'. Good friends who had fled to Canada to dodge the Draft.

But this piece, rambling as it most likely is going to be, is not about me, save perhaps as an introduction to the observer.

Catherine wrote: "Not for that war - but there are Vets being created all the time. Funny how we never learn to treat them with respect..."

And Catherine is of course absolutely correct.

I had pondered last year about lessons not learned. We cry 'Never Again'.
Then fat men in tall hats thump their chests, speaking about bravery and sacrifice - then send another generation of young men into the meat grinder. Afterwards they discard the shattered remains, shedding even their own limited responsibility for what they have set into motion. (see
Rick Mercer's commentary ).

We act as if *peace* is the natural order of our world. It is most certainly not the truth. Is this because we, here in North America, have never endured the bombing of out homes and schools?
Look at the actual progress of the 20th Century : World War 1, World War 2, Korea, Viet Nam, Gulf One, Gulf Two, Afghanistan. (and those just the 'majors' - add all the minor 'police actions' and 'bush wars' and 'peace keeping', and, and ...)
The civilians may think there have been periods of peace - the soldiers certainly know * personally * this is not the case.

So Catherine, you are exactly correct. There will always be '... men (to) answer the call'.

* * *

Things around Remembrance Day this year, that I liked, and that I hated.


Image from the UK Daily Mail
Haunting reminder of millions of lives lost in war as artists stencil 9,000 bodies onto Normandy beach to mark Peace Day
    •    British led project covered the famous coastline in poignant silhouettes
    •    A team of 500 artists and volunteers contributed the moving installation
    •    The 'fallen' were left to be washed away by the tide at the end of the day

Non Intrusive

And significantly, this work lets the *viewer* make up their own mind.


The White Poppy * symbolizes the belief that there are better ways to resolve conflicts than killing strangers. Our work, primarily educational, draws attention to many of our social values and habits which make continuing violence a likely outcome.
White Poppy on Facebook

The symbolic RED Poppy has been used in Canada for my entire life, as a symbol of *sacrifice * and *remembrance*. It has NEVER been considered as a symbol of *war*, save in the most negative of contexts. 'Never Again' is the most commonly heard phrase.

The remembrance poppy (a Papaver rhoeas) has been used since 1920 to commemorate soldiers who have died in war. Inspired by the World War I poem "In Flanders Fields", they were first used by the American Legion to commemorate American soldiers who died in that war (1914–1918). They were then adopted by military veterans' groups in some Commonwealth states: the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Today, they are mainly used in the UK and Canada to commemorate their servicemen and -women who have been killed in all conflicts since 1914.
Remembrance Poppy - Wikipedia

Curiously enough, the White Poppy symbol has a considerable history, dating back to the period just before the outbreak of World War Two :

After World War I the  Co-operative Women's Guild became more involved in peace activism, concentrating especially on the social and political conditions that encouraged or gave rise to war, as well as opposition to the arms trade. In 1933 they introduced the White Poppy as a pacifist alternative to the British Legion's annual red poppy appeal.

It might be useful to remember there was an extremely strong anti War movement in Great Britan right about the time of this first use of the white poppy symbol. This despite the massive arming up of Germany, the emergence of Hitler, the start of the Nazi Party at the very same time. 'Peace in Our Time' ring any bells?

The entire modern campaign *, pushed strongly via social networking, completely misses the purpose of Remembrance Day as it is 'marked' in Canada and elsewhere.

Ask any serving or ex military member what this day means to them.
often Betrayal
almost always the feeling of complete lack of Understanding from civilians

We will be seen, huddled in corners in small groups, often alone. Raising a glass in silent toast.
Never to War
Always to Absent Friends

* Of course you can *buy these on line* from the 'Peace Pledge Union' (at Cost (with UK shipping) is GPB 7 for five = $2.40 CDN each. No mention of where the money goes. ('Nuff Said?)

• Of all the dozens of versions of Bogle's song, my favorite is the gritty voice of Liam Clancy:

1 comment:

David Robertson said...

Lest We Forget!


February 15 - May 15, 2012 : Supported by a Crafts Projects - Creation and Development Grant

COPYRIGHT NOTICE - All posted text and images @ Darrell Markewitz.
No duplication, in whole or in part, is permitted without the author's expressed written permission.
For a detailed copyright statement : go HERE