Remembrance – What message?
TLDR – What? You can’t spare a few minutes of consideration for a matter so important. Fair enough – go in peace.
In many countries of our world, we have a day upon which we remember the fallen of wars past. For some the date of such is the 11th November; 11am 11th November 1918, the time when the Armistice of Compiegne brought an end to the hostilities of WWI (peace wasn’t fully ratified until 1920). On the nearest Sunday to this date memorial services may be held. Whatever date and whatever name, Remembrance Day, Armistice Day, Veterans Day, Memorial Day, Anzac Day and more; what do we consider if we observe a minute’s silence, what, perhaps, should be our take home message for the time ahead.
Why a silence? For those of us in Britain, King George V asked the public to observe 2 minutes of silence on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. The stated intent was so that “the thoughts of everyone may be concentrated on reverent remembrance of the glorious dead”.
Most families have born the suffering & cost of wars waged across the ages, my own included. I therefore do not wish to criticise the intent to remember ‘the glorious dead’ but would like to suggest that there is very much more that we might consider and that this should be with us for all days, not just 2 minutes per year.
Why a Poppy? After the destruction wreaked upon the countryside of Flanders during WWI, one flower bloomed in abundance before any other, it also proliferated around the graves of the fallen. This was noted by a Canadian field doctor Mr John McCrae in a poem he wrote “In Flanders Fields” and so the red poppy became a symbol for all those fallen & of rebirth in those ravaged lands. The red colour of said poppies also stood for the blood that flowed from the horror of war. Interestingly, if you read McCrae’s poem, it’s last verse is something of a rallying cry for more to “Take up the quarrel with the foe”.
Who & what do we remember?
Some would have us remember only those who fell serving their own country, fighting for our freedom against a foe or nation that perhaps might still be vilified. Surely we can go further than this and extend our compassion to those who fell on all sides. I believe & hope that the mainstay of remembrance these days is for all who fell.
Many now choose to wear poppies of alternate colours.
Purple poppies in remembrance of all the domesticated animals who fell, without their consent and on our behalf. The British Army alone deployed more than 1 million horses & mules to the WWI war effort, over half were used as draft animals to deliver supplies through thick mud & across rough terrain. Others were deployed to the battlefield as the ultimate weapon. In November 1918, the British Army still had about 275,000 riding, gun & cavalry horses deployed. Every year at least 15% of these noble creatures died, some from gas, bullet & shell but most to simple debilitation due to malnourishment, illness & mistreatment. Some estimates are that 8 million horses died during this conflict alone. I salute those who choose to wear a purple poppy to remember these creatures who suffered at our hands.
White poppies may be worn by those who are pacifist, as a statement of opposition to all war & conflict. Whilst I am not a pacifist (I believe that most of us would fight to defend our children), surely the ideal that this pale emblem stands for, is one that all sane people should aspire to. To learn the lessons of the past and avoid conflict in the future.
So, what’s my opinion, what would I have us consider?
Remember – to recall something from the past
Glorious – having splendour, worthy of fame & adoration
Dead – expired, showing absence of all life
War – armed conflict between groups
Consider this: Life is glorious, life can be beautiful. Conflict frequently escalates to armed conflict (because most humans aren’t pacifists), that war brings death which is the absence of life & all that goes with it.
Perhaps more than simply recalling “our glorious dead”, we could learn from the mistakes of the past and avoid that which caused so many violent deaths before their time.
Perhaps we could live our lives in a suitable manner for 365 days per year, not just remembering for 2 minutes of 1 day.
Perhaps we could attempt to avoid conflict in all our actions & decisions. Not only in our direct actions but also our wider influences; such as in decisions of who we vote to rule our nations and decisions of unity or breakup. We are all humans after all and we all share this glorious blue marble as a home, so:
Perhaps we could learn to live together in peace.