Who to Remember, and Who to Forget

(An article that never got published because it wasn’t timely enough, I still think its one of the most important things I’ve ever written -WH)

Remembrance Day is the most recent target of a group of people that believe the best way to champion their views is to attack someone else’s. A recent McGill Daily article tied Remembrance Day to inherently evil weapons research, white supremacy, CIA spying, colonial exploitation, sexism and resolves that Remembrance celebrates the actions of modern war. Elsewhere, a campaign has begun to replace the traditional red poppies that honor sacrifice with white ones hoping for peace. Ignoring for a moment the horrendous gaps in logic… Actually let me digress for a second.

I hate that I am writing this article.

I have better ideas for articles. Articles I have been working on for months; articles with quotes and research and frankly much better writing. However, this November I felt compelled to pen a response to the unsolicited attacks on Remembrance Day that have become commonplace today. I would love it if we as a society universally decided that these movements were not worth the breath to talk about, the energy to write about or the ink to print about. However, this is not the case. This sort of alarmist, unsolicited attack is what draws eyes to the page and hits to the website, so ignoring it will simply not work. I look forward to the days when this sort of response article is no longer necessary, but for the time being…

What every criticism of Remembrance Day is missing is the word honor. It is simple to say that a day that’s purpose is the acknowledgement of those who have lost their lives in war is a celebration of battle or a glorification of combat. The recent Demilitarize McGill piece stated Remembrance Day goes far beyond the mourning of individuals killed in wars: it celebrates the actions of soldiers, and warfare more generally, as necessary for the defense of our ‘freedom’ against an indefinite network of enemies”This is rhetoric repurposed for a partisan view. Remembrance Day is not an endorsement of war or a praising of violence; it is to honor those who paid the ultimate price for the people who now live in a time of peace. It is to honor sacrifice and loss, dedication and bravery and to dismiss it as a self-aggrandizing celebration of jingoism demonstrates how small minded one truly is.

If you attend a Remembrance Day service you can see this. It is not a party, it is not meant to be fun and it certainly does not endorse death. It is a solemn event and that is how it should be. Men gave their lives not because it was fun or because warfare is something to be desired, but because they believed that the sacrifice of thousands was necessary for the benefit of millions. I find it horribly offensive to dismiss the loss of these lives as a footnote beneath political history.

Yes, war is terrible. Yes, every effort should be made to preserve peace. But the dismissal of this sacrifice does nothing to guarantee this. It is a tool used by people who have controversial viewpoints as a way of reaching as may people as possible and it is truly disgusting to use the deaths of these men as a podium from which to spew this venom.

The “white poppy” movement employs the same logic. If the participants of this movement simply chose to wear “peace” pins instead of poppies this November, they would make very few waves and we would be hard pressed to find someone who disagreed with their message. But by distorting the message of Remembrance Day to their own agenda they gain media coverage, reaction and feel a sense of accomplishment. Crusading for peace is a noble pursuit and while it can be discouraging to see the prevalence of violence in the world today, perverting the history of a nation is not the way to spread a message.

I do not have a problem with the views of these groups, far from it. But to build your own position by tearing down the views of others is despicable. To claim Remembrance Day represents a sexist patriarchal system, white supremacy and supports the acts of CIA spying is not defensible in the least. It is this tying of buzzwords and headline topics to a truly important occasion that makes these articles truly abhorrent. The author knows accusing an institution like Remembrance Day supporting sexism or racism will garner attention regardless of logic or truth.

My only comfort from this cavalcade of ignorant stupidity is that those who senselessly attack the memories of those who fought and died for their livelihood is that they are in the minority. A small fraction of the greater population attack McGill for its support of Remembrance Day and the armed forces where the grand majority is silent in its opposition. But while those who quietly remember are far more numerous than those who loudly contest, the presence of the latter group represents the voice more likely to be heard. I truly hope those who use the sacrifice of our brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers as a grandstand truly realize the folly of their position. Until then I say we continue to spend November 11th remembering our fallen, and forget these sad excuses for people.

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