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12 November 2008

Remembrance

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.


— Lt. Col. John McCrae


I have a Canadian coworker, who has made huge contributions to my sanity over the course of the past three years.

So I wandered to her desk yesterday morning, and announced, "I am here in my capacity as someone who asks stupid questions." She laughed and said, "Thanks."

My question was, "Does Canada observe two minutes of silence at 11 AM today?"

Yes, they do. A lot of countries do.

Why don't we? I have a variety of theories, but here's what I have settled on: We do not know war like Europe knows war. We don't even call November 11th "Remembrance Day". We honour our veterans, and rightly so. We fly our flag, as so we should. But we don't remember.

We have been blessed; our cities do not have the scars of war still upon them. Our elderly do not tell stories of huddling in air raid shelters while the sounds of planes and bombs roared outside. We do not have a war memorial in every town. We do not have these collective memories handed from one generation to the next, as Europeans do.

Our people, our families, have been touched by war. But our land, this past century, has not; not like France, or Poland, or Russia, or Britain. Or Iraq. And that, I think, is why we do not observe the collective moment of silence; we do not know, as they do, the relief of hearing two minutes of silence after years of hearing nothing but suffering.

Think of the poppies. Remember. And give thanks.

3 comments:

Timbra said...

susan, thank you for this remembrance and for your reflection on the reasons that it just doesn't touch us. your comment on "the two minutes of silence after years of hearing nothing but suffering" brought tears to my eyes.

Su said...

Wow. Thanks.

Kar said...

I think this is right on. We have participated in wars but we have not experienced what it's like to have people ravage our own country in a very long time--beyond anyone's living memory, I believe. I have always been as oblivious as most, but it's recently begun to bother me that, on so many of our holidays, including Memorial Day and Independence Day, almost the only things I seem to hear about are TV commercials for great shopping deals and talk of barbecue, etc. I *have* been at least seeing occasional status posts and emails online that encourage us to remember and thank our veterans--I don't mean to ignore the good--so maybe this is changing? I don't know, but if not, it needs to. Starting with me...just need to figure out how I *should* be spending those days...

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