Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Remembrance Day

Remembrance Day
“in Flander’s Field, the poppies grow between the crosses row on row.” As children we recited this in school classrooms and auditoriums that served as basketball courts, dance floors and centers of convocation. Dad was RCAF. He’d been a spitfire mechanic and served as a bomber on the coastal plane flights in Canadian waters. He didn’t talk about the war. The other men didn’t either. Not to us kids. Not to their families. They did talk to each other in the evening, in garages, standing in back allies, sitting together in basements. They’d reminisce among themselves. Later I’d know too many people had died.
In old folks homes today they talk in hushed tones of those who passed in the night. The others know that it could have been them. That’s the sacred. That’s the quiet. That the awe. The realization that life is a gift given that can be taken away at any moment.
There’s uncertainty in the silence..
On Remembrance Day we all bowed our heads. The horror of war for sure. We asked God for Peace. But mostly we prayed for the dead as if without us they’d lose their way as we feared we’d lose our way. Respect. Remembrance. Honour.
As I got older I marched in peace demonstrations. Later I joined the Physicians for Social Responsibility and became a member of the international Organization Physician Against Nuclear War which would eventually get a Nobel Peace Prize. I always admired the soldiers though. Buffy St. Marie’s song, Universal Soldier held each individually responsible. Joan Baez’s husband was a conscientious objector to Vietnam. I admired the Quakers. I couldn’t see “right action” in War but I could see how one could get caught up in it. I would fight for my buddies. The Military have capitalized on that. We care for a few and will die for them. The wars are really about platoons. Armies don’t capture hearts. It’s the family and friends. I knew I would be for peace at the nation and political level feeling that war should only be a ‘last resort’ when too many carpetbaggers and wheeler dealers like nothing better than to make a buck by intimidation. The cowardly bullies are the ones who war first and talk later.
Men like my father were slow to anger.
I am thankful though that my country stands for Peace and that our forces are Peace Keepers. It’s a subtle difference. .
Thank you. That’s what I say to my father and to the men and women who serve to keep the peace internationally. This is a day of Remembrance and I have been honoured to talk to so many veterans whose hearts were good and they faithfully served. I respect them and their service. I admire the sacrifice but loathe the waste.
It’s remembrance day. There but for the Grace of God go I. Thanks to the sacrifice of others I have known peace.

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