Another Remembrance Day. Please let us not forget.

Another Remembrance Day.  Most allied nations have been honouring Remembrance Day for 103 years now.  That’s a long time.  How are we doing in faithfully remembering and being grateful for those who sacrificed for our freedoms and safety?  Do we ever stop to consider the millions of innocent civilians who were and are the ultimate victims of all wars?  How are we doing as a world in deciding that war is not an answer, that killing each other and laying waste to people’s homelands is a cruel, costly, lose-lose business?

As I have written on many Remembrance Days, remembering is something that our town does pretty well. We live near the largest training base in Canada, with a strong military presence and much pride in that fact. People of all generations turn out in droves to remember the sacrifices of those who gave their lives for our freedoms and those who have fought and returned, some more safely than others. This year, for the second year in a row thanks to COVID, there will only be restricted gatherings to honour the fallen soldiers. No parade of troops from past wars and presently serving, no speeches, no prayers, no singing of Abide With Me, no laying of wreaths, no leaving your red poppy at the cenotaph. We will truly miss this moving and meaningful event.

Because I don’t think I can say it any better and the messages are so important, I am reposting my words from three years ago, written on the 100th anniversary of the Armistice. Please be sure to read the second part, called What we forget.  The past three years have not lessened my concerns about the never-ending evidence of mankind’s unfailing ability to put power, money, and self-interest above so much that is important, from waging wars that destroy lives to destroying the planet on which we live.  Our only planet.


November 11, 2018. One hundred years since the signing of the Armistice that ended World War I. One hundred years of remembering the many, many sacrifices made by millions upon millions of people. Horrific sacrifices. Heartbreaking sacrifices. For far too many, the ultimate sacrifice. Sacrifices made by countless young people – on both “sides” – who had little or nothing to do with the decisions that led to the war in the first place.


What we remember

Every year in most towns and cities in Canada, and I assume most places in the western world, people of all generations come together to honour those who have served and those who have laid down their lives in past wars, especially WWI. Our town happens to be located in close proximity to Base Gagetown, the largest military training base in Canada, and as a result we have an extremely impressive and moving parade of service men and women marching in our Remembrance Day ceremony each year. It’s a sight that stays with you. The few remaining WWII veterans leading the way, with fewer and fewer each year. Then of course there are a few vets from the Korean War and the Vietnam War, and many who have served in Afghanistan, sometimes several times. Not to mention many dangerous peace-keeping missions. To watch all those soldiers, probably spanning three generations or even four, marching proudly in uniform, is to be reminded in a profoundly moving way of just what our service men and women sacrifice in taking on the role of protecting our country and our freedoms. The applause for the men and women in uniform as they march past all the spectators is loud and heartfelt.

It’s not warm in these parts this time of year – we even have some early mushy snow on the ground today – but I’m proud to say that there’s always a large crowd at our Remembrance Day ceremony. I love the mix of families who bring small children, people my age whose fathers served in WWII, and those in between. When I see the young families there each year I’m heartened by the family tradition they’re establishing. By attending, despite the cold and sometimes the cold rain or worse, and by explaining to their small children why they’ve come, who the soldiers are who are marching, and how they are serving their country on our behalf, they are fulfilling the mandate of Remembrance Day. They are helping make sure that we don’t forget.

It is so important that we remember and honour our military service men and women. (As it is that we honour those who serve in any first responder capacity.) These people put their lives on the line so that we may be safe and live in peace.


Remembrance Day ceremony 2014, my home town

What we forget

But surely, Remembrance Day should be about both honouring those who’ve sacrificed for us and learning from the lessons of that brutal and ultimately futile war. November 11, 2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the “war to end all wars”. That doesn’t seem to have worked out so well; wars aren’t ended. Aren’t we supposed to remember that part, too? Aren’t we supposed to stop and think about why we have all these wars anyway and try to put a stop to them? It appears that there were virtually no lessons learned from the “war to end all wars”, which took something in the order of 16 million lives (possibly up to 37 million when deaths from disease and infection in both military and civilians are included). One of the deadliest conflicts in all of history. In fact, knowing that, one might question why it’s called the Great War. There was nothing great about it.


Battlefield of Passchendaele WWI, Credit: Time-Life

Following WWI and a decade of recovery, the world plunged into depression, followed by another catastrophic war, World War II. Clearly no lessons that one might have learned from the “war to end all wars” had held any sway whatsoever. Nationalism, tribalism, high levels of income inequality, sowing seeds of hate and fear … these were aspects of what had allowed WWI to start, and even more so WWII. People hear what they want to hear, believe what they want to believe, and the next thing you know all the young people are being sent to kill each other again. This time, a mere 21 years – 21 short years – after WWI ended, 60,000,000 people were killed. Sixty million, let that sink in. It didn’t take long for the “war to end all wars” to be overtaken in terms of death toll. In spades.

Were any lessons learned this time? Well, to a degree. The U.S., European allies, Canada and others started working together. Importantly, the United Nations was formed. Despite of course working to protect self-interest, there was some recognition of the need and desirability of trying to work out problems together; to listen to each other, and to collaborate and compromise rather than go to war. There was even an understanding that helping the disadvantaged in the world could be a win-win, doing good and making the world safer for your own country at the same time.

That, of course, didn’t stop the wars. There have been more recent wars in Europe, a lingering effect of republics having been brought together within one border without addressing ethnic and cultural differences. Then there have been wars fought on foreign soil, killing not only young (mostly American) soldiers but also millions of Vietnamese, Iraqi, Afghani, and other soldiers and civilians. For what purpose? Self-interest.

What happened to lessons learned? Why aren’t we remembering any of these lessons on Remembrance Day? Why are we honouring the sacrifices of all these young people through generations, and yet not even having the discussion about how to prevent further sacrifices?

This is the 100th anniversary of the Armistice the ended the fighting of World War I. Remembrance Day. And yet, the 70 years of the “post-war” seems to be unraveling.  Nationalism is returning. Highly-charged public rhetoric about “them” versus “us” is ramping up. Militarization of countries is ramping up. Incitement of fear and hatred is ramping up. Cooperation and collaboration seems to be weakening. Trust between countries is sadly declining.

Western countries sell military supplies to Saudi Arabia, which they then use to suppress opposition at home and kill, maim and otherwise destroy the lives of millions of Yemeni. This is justified as protecting jobs at home (and staying on the good side of the Saudis). Are these really the jobs we want for our citizens? Is this really the kind of foreign policy we want? Is this what we learned from the “war to end all wars”? I weep.


Saudi strike in Yemen, Credit:

We must not forget the lessons of the horror and futility of war, so poorly learned. Lest we forget.


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16 Responses to Another Remembrance Day. Please let us not forget.

  1. debscarey says:

    Beautifully expressed – both the respect & remembrance which are due to those who served, and those who continue to serve. As important though are your words about wars and how we find ourselves in them – hate and the increasing practice of demonising The Other. Listening to some of the speeches at the current COP26 climate crisis conference, I despair for our world and of our leaders.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on Musings and Wonderings and commented:
    Thanks for your thoughts, so very well said.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I took part in anti Vietnam war demonstrations in late 60s in the US and Canada so when I got my first teaching job in rural Ontario 1970 and was asked to be in charge of the Nov 11 school assembly, my focus was on peace, not war. I don’t know what the administration thought but they gave me full reign. I was 21. I showed the film Toys, an anti war allegorical documentary and we sang songs by Pete Seeger. I have no idea if it impacted any staff or students.

    I still sit in the same peaceful place as you,Jane, but, at 72, am sadly less confident that many of my fellow earthlings are there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks for this really interesting look back in time … to our youth and the peace movement of the 60s. We had hope then, as naive as we were. I’m afraid I share your lack of confidence in the world’s commitment or even interest in peace for anyone but themselves, or for that matter a commitment in saving the only planet we have if it means giving up their individual lifestyles or profits. It’s not an inspiring time. 😥


  4. So powerful! I was especially struck by this: “The past three years have not lessened my concerns about the never-ending evidence of mankind’s unfailing ability to put power, money, and self-interest above so much that is important, from waging wars that destroy lives to destroying the planet on which we live. Our only planet.”

    Oh, yes. Sigh. But onward we go. For a dose of hope, listen, if you haven’t already, to Andy Borowitz’s recent New Yorker Radio interview with Jane Goodall. What a remarkable woman!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Yes, Jane Goodall is a special person, and there are many others for sure. But they don’t control the money and the power, very, very sadly. The big oil companies, the big auto manufacturers, and big coal control masses amount of money, employment opportunities, and influence on politicians and votes. Just look what’s happening in Australia. Despite them already seeing frightening effects of climate change, they will categorically not stop digging, processing, burning, and exporting coal. They’re not even pretending. Talk about short-term thinking, greed, and self-interest. 😥


  5. boblorentson says:

    It is hard enough to process the casualty numbers you note, much less what those numbers really mean, and like you talk about so well, all the ancillary horrors we seem to forget all too soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jane Fritz says:

      It really is instructive to stop and try to grasp the magnitude of the horror of war through the ages. And now we have the current experience of witnessing from afar the horror for the remaining civilian population after a withdrawal from war. Talk about lose-lose. Man’s inhumanity to man seems to know no bounds.


  6. BernieLynne says:

    What a thoughtful post Jane. I’ve come to expect no less and know that you research so well. The numbers of war dead only are tallied in the two big wars. There is so much ongoing fighting now and so little media about it. It’s mind boggling really that the wheels turn and so little seems to change. It does seem like a time of darkness and dispear. What you wrote 3 years ago about division and hatred and fear is even worse with Covid, climate change crisis and generalized politics.

    Liked by 1 person

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