I have always had mixed feeling about Remembrance day. As a child, I looked forward to the day off school and a chance to watch history documentaries…mostly about World War II that filled the television channels throughout the day.
I understood the message of remembering the soldiers that had fallen, but always assumed that remembering veterans and the cost of war was a natural human sentiment. Regardless of your feelings on warfare, growing up I believed that everyone had a sense of reverence for those willing to lay down their lives in the hopes of what they believed was building a better world for the rest of us. Sentiments on whether warfare improves the world aside, I always held a certain respect for anyone willing to sacrifice so much in the hopes of improving the world for others.
The other day, I began to question this belief when a couple of women visiting from Germany pointed to my poppy and asked what I was wearing. After my initial response of “a poppy” failed to remove the curious expressions from their faces, I explained the Flanders field poem, Remembrance Day and our general practices.
The women paused before the older of the two finally said: “Hmm, in Germany we don’t have such a day”.
“Oh, do you have some equivalent day”, I asked, assuming that they had perhaps a Veterans Day or war memorial day.
“No, we just try to forget”, she replied, a brief smile of embarrassment crossing her face.
The whole experience left me questioning a basically held belief that we hold an innate concern for the sacrifice of soldiers. My education in history doesn’t leave me with an excuse for why I held this belief for as long as I did. After all, history is rife with examples of people failing to recall past events and falling into the same pitfalls time after time.
At the end of the day, my feelings towards Remembrance Day still remain mixed. I still question the cost and the rewards of war, but sympathize and admire those willing to sacrifice so much in their belief of building a better world. There is a very real concern that without such holidays, people may begin to try and forget the costs of war, inevitably opening the door to future wars when the costs are shrouded in time.