Lest We Forget? We Already Have
Every year leading up to and especially on Remembrance Day, news stories (both on television and in print) are remind us of numerous stories of heroism in war. Television stations do their part by programming the appropriate number of war movies and documentaries. Social media streams are filled with artistic and clever memes designed to remind us to feel a little guilt, and to take a moment to remember how exactly we came to be living with the freedoms we enjoy. I wonder how many of the people who are literally fighting one another in their own communities over the right to not only to display their chosen label, but also to do what they can to force everyone to accept and agree with it by pressuring politicians to enact laws that punish opposing opinions.
For years, I attended Remembrance Day ceremonies, not only because my grandparents told me stories about the great wars, but because I genuinely respect the men and women who choose to do what they can to combat the evil that human beings are capable of. Isn't that what this day - Remembrance Day - is supposed to be about?
Today, I learned a sad truth. The majority of people today, especially those who never knew their relatives who fought or lived through any of the great wars, have no idea of the level of fear that people living in Europe experienced from 1914 to 1918, and from 1939 through 1945.
Most people have heard about the holocaust and other more recent genocides of course, but they haven't taken time to fully understand those horrors; how they came to be and how they effected everyone who lived through them. It's reasonable, of course, to want to avoid learning about the how's and why's of war. It's one thing to hear an idea or a story and file it away in your NEUTRAL cabinet. It's completely another to fully grasp that idea or story and see what you can learn from it.
Your mind's process can't reference a non-existent file or a file that you have judged to be unimportant. The history of war, albeit difficult to study due to the sheer number of atrocities human beings have committed toward one another, must be looked into, even if only superficially, to ensure your mind's process has a file for reference. That is how you form an informed opinion as opposed to adopting one that suits your personal insecurities.
Years ago, after my father died, I was cleaning out his basement and came across my grandfather's military memorabilia from World War I. As I read through his notebook, the reality struck me that his man who I only knew as a child, and who was incredibly abusive, actually suffered from war induced PTSD. My grandmother called it 'shell shock'. Now, this is not to say that understanding this excused his abusive behaviour, but it did give me insight into why he was so scary and miserable that I hadn't considered before.
My grandmother, God rest her soul, was as close to a saint as I've ever met. I never heard her speak of anyone in a negative manner, except for the Nazis. Her disdain for their beliefs and the atrocities they committed in the service of those beliefs never left her. She was in London during the bomb raids of WWI, and spoke of hiding in a cellar with others, listening to the scream of the bomb raid sirens and the screams of people trying to flee to safety. She described the experience of buildings collapsing and the earth shaking from the explosions. I remember seeing the terror in her eyes as she recalled these memories. She talked of listening to radio broadcasts alerting British citizens of where exactly the German forces were at any given moment; reminding them minute by minute of the threat to their way of life and their very safety.
Way back when I was in high school, the grade 10 history curriculum dealt with wars. Specifically, WWI, WWII, Korea, and a little bit about the Vietnam conflict. I remember reading a book called Generals Die In Bed and thinking at the time how horrible it was for the soldiers. My mind's process understood them to be sacrificial pawns for politicians who never left the safety of their offices. I wasn't mature enough, nor did I have sufficient data in the filing cabinets of my mind to reference and arrive at a different conclusion. My teenage arrogance and insecurity formed that rigid perspective based on how I saw myself at the time. I didn't understand that at that age that I was struggling for my own independence and that the resentment I was feeling toward authority would influence my understanding of waht I was reading.
We see things as we are and as a teenager, I saw myself as that same pawn in a game run by adults who were eager to exert their power over me. I believed I was being empathetic towards the soldiers I was reading about in this history class, but I wasn't being empathetic at all. My mind's process was referencing the mind file that spoke of the powerlessness I was feeling. As it referenced that mind file, it reminded me of all the negatively coloured filters I had placed inside it which ultimately reinforced the resentment.
Remembrance Day is meant to remind us all of the cost of freedom. We don't honour the fallen by seeing them as victims of corrupt and greedy power hungry men. We honour them by acknowledging the truth of their sacrifice as they saw it, not as we see it.
© 2019 Penny Hodgson & Kyron's Way. All Rights Reserved.