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what am I supposed to remember, exactly…?

November 11, 2014

To say that Remembrance Day leaves me conflicted is to understate the fact.

My grandfather was in the War. He came home a broken man, left his wife and three small children, and my mother did not see him again for 20 years.

A neighbour had been a sniper in the War. He came home and slowly drank himself to death.

The farmer down the road had first fought for the Poles against the Germans. Then he was forced to fight for the Germans against the Russians. Then, when the tide turned, he switched sides and fought for the Russians against the Germans, before escaping and joining the western forces.

He lived in a shack of a farm with his Polish wife and retreated from the world as best he could. He’d have wild fits of rage and often the police would have to come to his house.

That too many of our leaders want to glorify war always leaves me with misgivings.

Sitting in our high school gym, listening to the trumpeter, looking up at the Queen and Flag, told by my Principal that it was our proud duty to defend country and home should the call ever come – but no one ever explaining why.

That the wealthy and the powerful use soldiers as pawns in a game of acquisition for either regional or global domination is now well documented.

Every American president has invaded the lands of the Other – for money, bananas, minerals, oil – all the while manipulating our tribal instincts of fear of the Other.

That so many of our soldiers come from the working class and the poor is always glossed over. Why make ourselves anymore uncomfortable discussing that fact.

No, Remembrance Day for me has always been too much about tribal manipulation, manufactured sentimentalism, the glory of death. And not enough listening to those who were actually there.

It reeks of hypocrisy and malevolence.

Now, at 11am, on November 11th, I think of boys (and now girls) sent to the furnaces of History – who knew not for what – other than what they had been told. Lied to with words like Glory! Honour! Country! God!

2000 veterans will try to commit suicide today. Another 2000 will try tomorrow. And again the day after that. And that’s just in North America.

Think about that for a moment.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Eric permalink
    November 11, 2014 9:10 pm

    Bravo Sherwood, – one of your very best! After the national soaking in Patriotic hair-wringing it is a refreshing change to hear some truth. If you haven’t already, check out Russel Brand’s deconstruction of Harper’s post Ottawa shooting speech.

  2. November 12, 2014 1:01 am

    Bravo!! And good choice with the Pogues Waltzing Matilda.

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