Saturday, 25 November 2006

Lest We Forget

I really am not posting this at the best time. It would have been more topical a couple of weeks ago. But it's one of those thoughts that's built over time.

As you may or may not know, there was recently a motion passed by the Canadian House of Commons regarding whether or not to hold a state funeral for the last surviving Canadian Veteran of the Great War (WWI). There has been a great deal of support, and a great deal of opposition to the idea. I'm not going to provide my thoughts on whether this would be appropriate. I have to admit to seeing many sides to the issue.

What has been percolating through my mind is more about the passing of time, and the deadening of memory. Last century we lived through some of the most cataclysmic events the world has known. Two conflicts whose impacts were felt world wide, both in terms of the geo-political changes they effected, as well as in the unprecedented damage they wrought. A plague that probably killed more people than both those wars combined. The creation and use of some of the most devastating weapons mankind has ever known.

I do not discount or minimize the terrible events of the recent past, but as we come to the point where all those who fought for freedom in First World War leave us, I wonder that we don't lose the power of their memory. For myself, World War I is something I've only read about. Even the second World War only impinged on me in stories that my grandfather told (would that I, as a child, had paid more attention and respect.) Soon there will be no one who can tell us of the horrors, of the sacrifices, and of the glory. That both saddens and scares me.

These events have helped us create a better world (and if you don't think the world of today is a better world, that's another reason to study history). We are a better, more tolerant, and generally safer society than we were a hundred years ago. We are infinitely better off than we were two hundred years ago.

For most of you who will read this, these events will never be more than history. I rejoice that we do not face the awful demands placed upon those who endured the trenches. But I also pray that we do not forget the lessons learned.

Hark the resentful guns!
Oh, how thankful am I
To think my beloved ones
Will never know how I die!
I've suffered more than my share;
I'm shattered beyond repair;
I've fought like a man the fight,
And now I demand the right
(God! how his fingers cling!)
To do without shame this thing.
Good! there's a bullet still;
Now I'm ready to fire;
Blame me, God, if You will,
Here on the wire . . . the wire. . . .
~Robert Service - Last stanza of On the Wire

1 comment:

dkwd said...

While I am for the state funeral, how tough on the penultimate surviving WW1 vetran - who just misses out.

David