I have always revered the time on November 11 when we all stop and remember. I have stood in silence at local cenotaphs in wind, rain, snow and bitter cold. If I can’t do that I will stop where I am or turn on the television at home and observe the same reverence. I’ve shed tears, awed by both the heroism and the sadness. Few things are more rewarding than hearing stories of real people who have served and sacrificed in war and few things concern me more than hearing that younger generations are forgetting those sacrifices. This year will be no different.
However, there is a small ‘d’ debate surrounding Remembrance Day in the U.K. and Australia but most noticeably here in Canada. The “white poppy” movement is an attempt to use Remembrance Day as a time to remind us that war is hell and that peace should always be our priority.
Let me say that I’m not sure that their strategy of distributing white poppies in contrast to the traditional red ones is appropriate; I cherish the traditional red poppy and its history and symbolism. However, can I also say that I nevertheless understand the sentiment of the white?
Let us never forget. We must always remember, thank, and revere those who risked everything or made the ultimate sacrifice in a way most of us could never understand. But let us also never forget that peace is a high and godly virtue and that it was the reason why the world wars were fought in the first place.
Our soldiers became our heroes. Our soldiers were mostly men but often women and usually young. Our soldiers were farmers and factory workers and accountants and truck drivers and hockey players. Our soldiers were real, average people, not hired professionals. They didn’t go to war as heroes; they returned as heroes. They didn’t fight for economics or politics or perceived threats, they fought for peace and safety.
This is a fine line I’m drawing but one we need to be careful not to cross: we should fight wars only because we hate war; we should fight wars only because we love peace.
Remembrance Day is to remember those who fought the war, not to glorify the war they fought.