Remembrance Day. A century after the World War I armistice, I remember – and wonder.
I wonder what my grandparents thought of armistice day 100 years ago. During WW I my paternal English grandfather, and my maternal Scottish grandfather, fought in the trenches; both were injured, both sent home maimed. My Welsh paternal grandmother was an electrician and welder in a United Kingdom arms factory.
I remember the World War II service of both my parents, and both my parents-in-law, all four of whom served in uniform.
I wonder how all of their lives would have unfolded had they not been drawn into the vortex of global violence.
I wonder what their once close-knit, traditional, Scottish, Welsh and English villages would be like today, had warmongers not torn them apart, leaving wounds in peoples and places that festered and spread and linger today.
Mostly I wonder: can we remember? Are we capable, together, of holding onto the memory of the WW I armistice of 1918, of the ill-fated Paris Peace Conference of 1919? Of remembering how slowly, and in hindsight inevitably, the flawed peace unraveled and spun into World War II?
Can we remember what happened before, when we let warmongers destroy our worlds? The 20th Century wars chewed up and spit out my own entire family, but I’m not unique. Most people alive today are descendants of the survivors of human warfare.
Remembrance Day is about remembering the people and events of the past. But far more than that, it’s a day to spark wonder: what will each of us do to ensure we don’t repeat that past?
Other writings on war:
Two pieces about the “great” wars of the 20th Century: World and War, and Far from Flanders Fields (Facts and Opinions)
“Other-ness” stalks the world. (Vancouver Sun column)
I was dumbfounded when my son, then underage, asked permission to join the military reserves. (Time magazine, back page essay)