Remembrance Day, 2009

Peony

A peony from the Devonian Gardens outside Edmonton. (It reminds me of a poppy.)

Today we paused — briefly — to pay tribute to the men and women who have given selflessly of themselves to secure and uphold our rights and freedom.  I am glad for this opportunity, though it generally moves me to tears, and today I added an extra little ‘I am grateful for. . .’ in my daily affirmation of all that I am grateful for. 

Whenever I see the old, withered faces, the rheumy eyes, the trembling hands of old war veterans I can’t help imagining them as they once were — young, vital, full of hope and excitement for the lives that lay before them.  I know that not all of them endured the horrors of battle, some of these vets were lucky enough to have served at home, but they come from a time when the world was new to the wide-scale broadcast of the horrors that are done in the name of war.  They are icons of a time that is slipping away, remnants of a world where once innocence was naively considered the norm.  We now exist in a world where innocence is a fantasy, it having been mercilessly flayed to tatters by atrocity after atrocity.

And yet. . .

there is still this feeling, when we stop in our relentless pursuit of ‘our right to happiness’ on this one day each year, of deep and heartfelt gratitude that permeates the air and the airwaves.  I feel it as I sit in the crowded gymnasium of the school I work in and take part in our Remembrance Day ceremonies.  It’s there on the faces of the kids who go up to light a candle for grandfathers, fathers, uncles, aunts and siblings who have served, and are serving, our country. It’s there in the tears rolling down the cheeks of many in the audience as we watch and listen to “A Pittance of Time”.   And, again, it’s there in the nervous, eager faces of the kids performing their version of “In Flanders’ Fields”.   I treasure those moments, and am not embarrassed by the tears streaming down my cheeks.  I wish and wish and wish that no person should ever be harmed in warfare.  Call that folly, or naiveté, or just plain old bleeding heart romanticism, it doesn’t matter; it’s what I wish on this day. 

As an ironic aside — yesterday, the launch of the world’s bloodiest, most gory video game, Call of Duty something or other, took place.  People lined up for hours, some overnight in order to secure their copy.  Today, in Britain, the first Remembrance Day ceremony took place without any survivors from World War I.  Time marches on.  Sadly, those who, 91 years ago, lay in fox-holes running with mud and the blood and guts of their comrades, with the screams of the dead and dying in their ears, and made it possible for all those people to line up in the cold and buy that game so they could ‘play’ soldier, and perpetrate horrific acts of violence and bloodshed without having to risk a thing, will be forgotten.  The idiots who play these games can live securely and ignorantly, that right gained for them by the horrors endured by a generation gone before. 

I wish for all those who have won me the freedom to write as I do on this blog a day of peace.  Thank you for all you’ve sacrificed.

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