Yesterday was Remembrance Day here in Canada, Veteran’s Day, Armistice Day; whatever you call it where you are it is the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month that we stop to remember.
I thought about writing, but as you see, I held off until today. Why did I do this?
Today is the day after and I wanted to speak about my feelings, but couldn’t quite say what I wanted to say on the day when others were both remembering and speaking theirs. I will admit I was afraid of coming off as disrespectful or ungrateful. I did not want to offend. That is not my intention here.
I have written about my interest in the world wars in the past on this blog:
Day in the Museum, Part Three: Keep Calm and Carry On
I often immerse myself in the stories and the details of World War I and World War II specifically. These events in 20th century history have always held my attention and baffled me greatly.
The recent events here in Canada, more specifically in our capital of Ottawa affected us and me, so much so that I can’t speak about Remembrance Day without speaking about the loss we’ve collectively suffered only weeks ago.
First there was the hit-and-run in Quebec, of Officer Patrice Vincent.
Then, only a few days later, on the morning of October 22rd, my phone blew up with news updates on an attack in progress in Canada’s capital city. The news was not good.
There had been a shooting at The National War Memorial, The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, on Parliament Hill.
The country was in a panic and Ottawa, as a city, was in a frenzy. What was going on? Were we under attack?
I began to feel highly panicky and anxious, even though I lived several hours from Ottawa myself.
By the end of the day it had been established that one lone soldier, standing guard and unarmed at the memorial, Nathan Cirillo, had been murdered.
The gunmen then proceeded to force his way into the parliament building and was then confronted with a shoot-out, resulting in his death.
I was asked the other day by a family member why I hadn’t yet written about these events. He figured, as I use this blog and my writing to express my feelings about the things that happen, that I would surely have had something to say on the subject.
I may be totally ungrateful, unaware of how lucky I am and how much I indeed have. I wish nobody any disrespect.
I have no immediate family member currently involved in combat. I do have family who have loved ones who are. Below is a dedication to one such recently deceased soldier:
Remembrance Day means something to me.
Each November I would sit, cross-legged on the cold floor of my school gymnasium for the November 11th assembly. I felt the sombre mood as fellow students did readings and played soldiers and their families from the Great War, a title I did not understand as a young child.
How could a war be great?” I would wonder.
I was a very literal child.
Since I heard my school’s choir singing In Flanders Fields, I was captivated and haunted by the lyrics of this famous battlefield poem. Visiting Flanders is on my WanderList. I want to walk in that hallowed place.
I could not find a version of the song that I refer to here, but I was brought right back to those yearly assemblies yesterday, when watching the ceremonies shown live on television. A school choir, like my own, performed the song and I listened in remembrance.
This is one hundred years since that First World War and seventy-five since the Second. I heard about the poppy display at The Tower of London and would have liked to see it.
I am aware of all that I have. I have heat in the winter, central air to keep me cool in summer, a house, food to eat, two amazing parents and a family to be proud of.
As a blind woman, I couldn’t live in a better part of the world and I know it. Even with all that I struggle with, I am still so damn lucky.
In this day and age, with the internet and twenty-four hour news it isn’t so easy to live in a bubble of denial or shelter from the rest of the world.
Lyrics such as: don’t sit under the apple tree with anyone else but me, till I come marching home … these old-time lyrics from a period long past seem simple and naive to our world today.
This is the world I imagine existed when World War I broke out. It’s an innocent view of war that some young men may have had before going away to fight in 1914 and then they saw things they could never unsee. Nowadays we know better, (we should know better) but the fighting still goes on all over the world, every single day.
I watched all the ceremonies, the salutes, and honouring of those who’ve sacrificed their lives for my freedom.
I feel proud to be Canadian, but I feel uncomfortable when I watch. I can’t quite make any one day or one particular minute of silence all about pride and honour
. I just can’t. Maybe this makes me a bad person somehow, but I feel an anxiety that the world is doomed to make similar mistakes over and over again.
All the propositions to do better and to strive for peace are all well and good, but I can’t turn a blind eye on what I know about the world, not even on Remembrance Day.
The utter senselessness of World War I and the unimaginable cruelty of World War II will always define the first half of last century for me.
I remember all the time. I don’t need a chosen day or time for this. It is almost constantly on my mind, a world without war.
I don’t know what it was like for my father’s father during World War II and I never will. He is gone now and unable to have any imagined adult conversation with his grown granddaughter about this. I feel a huge empty gap in his life that I can only guess at, an entire fifty-seven years before I was born that include things I will hopefully never experience.
He was a teenager, in France with his family, when the war broke out in 1939 and circumstances, totally out of his control, they were thrust upon him. This I can not possibly fathom.
He and his siblings were taken by the Germans and forced to work for them. I believe he was made to dig ditches and other things I know nothing about. I try so hard sometimes to imagine him during the years of the war and what his life was like.
There has been a lot of talk in recent news, due to recent events, and on every Remembrance Day about bravery and sacrifice. I do not challenge this.
Some of these brave people make the choice to serve, to fight, or to stand guard and protect, such as reservist Nathan Cirillo. His child will now grow up without a father and this is supremely unfair. This child and others have no real choice in the matter.
War brings these choices and to others, to children and the innocent, it brings no choice whatsoever. Peace provides us time to reflect.
I do not mention the names of those who have committed the senseless crimes in Quebec and Ottawa. I do not like to glorify such things, but I reflect on the family members of these sick criminals and what they must be dealing with in the aftermath.
I was not in a rush to defend my country from a direct attack by ISIS. I know what is going on with that right now, but am probably naive about so much. However, the need to jump to attention and to go on the defensive like it is common to do is not where my mind goes.
All I do know is something I recently heard:
An eye for an eye and we are all blind.
As someone who was actually born blind, I consider this truth more potent than any I have ever heard.
I did not rush here to pour out my raw and unexamined feelings about Ottawa’s recent attack when it happened. I am blessed to live in a country of relative peace and therefore, I have nothing but time for reflection. I depend on and defend the right and my own right to speak about these things in such a place as this.
I want this blog to be a place where I write, to get out feelings sure, but not as a dumping ground for just anything that comes to my mind. Some of it I try to come at from a place of education and also from a place of emotion.
I prefer to mull things over and to write as a way of making sense of those things, but I believe holding off sometimes can only help make what I say sound as clear and concise as possible.
A rant is, more often then not, better suited for a private journal. For me, my blog is where I examine events and ideas from a mature, insightful point-of-view.
I hope that is what I have done here, the day after the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month.
I will always remember. Yet I am sorry…but I can not ever understand.