Readers share heart-felt Remembrance Day reflections
I want to thank everyone who shared so many wonderful, thoughtful responses to our Peace Poll Question, “What are you remembering on November 11 this year?”
We shared responses on Remembrance Day in a special edition of our newsletter, and received some deeply appreciative comments from readers:
- “Best read EVER on this Remembrance Day, Steven! Thank you!”
- “This entire response regarding Remembrance Day should be re-published in newspapers, read on radio and TV every year on the day. It is the most fitting and wide-ranging commentary I have ever come across.”
- “Thank you for making Remembrance Day a day to ‘Work for Peace”
What follows are selected comments from our readers that we received this week, including previously unpublished comments received on November 11.
From our readers:
While I remember the terrible suffering of young men and women who fought in all wars I also remember all the civilian victims of war throughout history and in the 20th century. The victims of the fire bombings of Dresden, Hamburg, London, Hiroshima, Nagasaki et al. I remember all those who died as refugees of hunger, cold, heat, those who died in concentration camps. All women who suffered the degradation of rape by soldiers on all sides, children who lost parents. I remember the utter futility of war and how all wars come not from enmity among peoples but from reckless and cowardly leaders who refuse to do the hard diplomatic work to resolve all conflict.
As a member of Pax Christi Toronto, which is committed to Nonviolence and an end to war, I am, with the White Poppy Movement, remembering ALL VICTIMS OF WAR. These include the soldiers who died on both sides of the battle, and more and more the innocent civilians, especially women and children, who die as “collateral damage”, AND the land which is always devastated by war and its weapons. I also grieve the soul of humanity which is deeply wounded by the belief that war can bring peace and by supporting a Culture of War. And so I am remembering all those who have worked, and are still working for Nonviolent paths to peace, and building a Culture of Nonviolence and Peace. Some of these are veterans of war. All of them are courageous, and bold in going against the mainstream of society. Their vision and dedication are my inspiration.
I’m remembering that time we invaded Russia. This has been expunged from Canadian history because it does not jibe with the “Russian aggression” propaganda line.
I think about the selfish idiocy of greedy politicians whose actions lead to armed conflict and the death and suffering of military men and women and the general population. I think abut how in a world that is running short of many resources how insanely wasteful war is. I think about how totally stupid and unnecessary war is. I think about how war is never a way to solve disputes. David Mayne Reid, Calgary
2000 Years (A poem)
I ate 2,000 pickles
And I burped 2,000 times
I walked 2,000 paces
And I said 2,000 rhymes
I climbed 2,000 mountains
And I looked out to the sea
And I wondered, “What’s the meaning of this 2,000 A.D.?
So, while moon on star-studded horizon arose
I sat myself down in meditative pose
And I asked our Divine Planner, “Hey, what goes?”
Then I felt our Creator gently tickle my nose
And I heard that “still small voice” say without a fuss
“Do unto others as you would have others do unto us”
And it sounded ’bout as “right on” you know
As it must have 2 , 0 0 0 years ago
Remembering the situation involving First Nations residential schools. Both survivors and an unknown number who did not survive. Also remembering the Holocaust and WW2 when millions of Jews were killed because of their faith; and my late father who worked in a war related job and my late father in law who taught as a school master in the Royal Canadian Navy Volunteer Reserves.
My father, a courageous soldier came back from the battlefield, so wounded he had PTST and developed paranoia schizophrenia. Our life as children was marked by war. My father talked about the poverty, bravery, waste of honour in war. He made it possible for us to view the actions of governments are often corrupt and not for the people. Now I am grateful for it as I see how hypocritical and devious. The leading powers of the globe are now and I fight for peace every day!
When Rudyard Kipling lost his son Jack in the battle of Loos, he wrote, “If any question why we died / Tell them, because our fathers lied.” Kipling felt real guilt over his boy’s death. … This sets Kipling apart as the rarest of writers, a national poet.
I remember all the people who died and suffer lifelong injury and trauma, from wars that were almost all entirely unnecessary but carried out for the benefit of a few. I wear a white poppy to symbolize peace and working for better solutions.
Having grown up as a child and teenager during and after WWII in Hitler’s fascists’ Germany, we were taught that Jews were bad people and had killed Jesus and we had to put them into “Labor Camps” or get them out of the country. We were taught they were a different race, not part of the Arian race. Live through WWII was with our fathers having been drafted to join the armed forces, die Wehrmacht. Even as a child I could not understand why Poland was invaded – which of course started the war. During the bombings of German cities by mostly British airforces and the German Luftwaffe bombings’ of British cities and civilian being killed on both sides. That is when I made my mind up to fight for peace after the end of WWII. I had often wondered how Switzerland and Sweden – even during the war – were able to survive right under the nose of Hitler. I came to the conclusion, it was because they stayed neutral! Later in Canada, I wished Canada could have stayed neutral – if that would have been possible – we would not have a November 11th to remember the dead war heroes. Now we have religious fanatics, such as ISL and Taliban who are attacking and killing those who do not follow their imaginary twisted false religious teachings – another reason for us to fight for peace. The current pandemic kills people in any country, any religion or nationality – why not fight together against covid-19?
The white poppy and what it represents is what I am remembering particularly. I wear both colors of the poppy and we know what the red one stands for but little is known of the white one. So google it and consider making or buying one. War never solved anything and we know the misery and destruction that comes with one, just ask any one in one. So let us strive for Peace and learn and strive for what works to get there.
I am remembering the women and men struggling with PTSD as a result of war. I am upholding military chaplains as they struggle and/or support others. I am remembering the enormous loss of human life. I am remembering the incredible disruption to humanity’s well being. I am remembering the care extended in trying to achieve peace.
I am remembering the futility of war, as described by family veterans a generation above me…
I’m remembering my own family: father who served in both world wars, his brother who disappeared somewhere north of Vimy in 1917, but now the defenseless civilians who lost their lives for all the wrong reasons and to all the wrong people. That sums up the history of war in my opinion and the grossly inept who insist on waging it.
I remember that WW I made one grandfather rich, and the other a shell-shocked wreck, so they were both such bad fathers that they have no great-grandkids. I remember the history that led to the wars, and the web of lies we still live in. I remember my shock when I learned that the arms companies would not be nationalized even if I was being drafted to fight. It is madness to let anyone profit from violence. I remember our success against the Vietnam war, and how we were subsequently divided into fools squabbling over misinformation about our basic biology.
I am thinking about all of the people who have been killed in senseless wars over the decades, both soldiers and civilians.
To remember is to work for peace!
I remember that countless people have died because old, rich, powerful men would not compromise on their greed for power & money & were willing to sacrifice their children & those of others for their vicious desires.
I remember the disastrous First World War when so many young men died horribly, deceived by appeals to patriotism, when in fact the war was nothing more than an inter-imperialist rivalry. Young men, dressed up as soldiers, sacrificed their lives not for improving the conditions of poverty, disease, justice, but to generate new sources of profit and exploitation, urged on by generals, who treated them as disposable cannon fodder. That shameless and ruthless defender of the rich and powerful, former PM Harper, dresses up mass murder as Canada’s entrée into the gang of independent nations. In defiance, I wear a white poppy, which I purchased from the Peace Pledge Union, an antiwar group in Britain <https://www.ppu.org.uk/events>. I hand out these poppies in coffee shops and people I meet in the street as well as friends and relatives.
The idiocy of wars and the power hungry bastards who start them. That we may be headed to a new war over Taiwan (Yes Canada as a NATO member, will be dragged along if it happens), when nearly all the stuff in our stores and vital parts for our vehicles, is made by the prospective enemy is ludicrous. My brother was in Korea, my best man was in Hong Kong so I know some of the stupidity.
My dad was a soldier in World War 1, as was his older brother who died in France. He told me that “War is hell and there is nothing heroic about it”. I believe he suffered from PTS all the rest of his life. War solves nothing and only provides profits to the arms industry and those who have power to gain by promoting it. If it had not been for the French farmers my dad and others would have starved to death. God bless those farmers!!
I will remember fallen soldiers. I will remember civilians whose lives were taken/disrupted/destroyed. “Let peace be their memorial.” I will reflect on the utter futility of war. I will remember and resolve to work for peace. I will wear a white poppy. I will continue my support for Conscience Canada and World Beyond War. Ernie Wiens La Salle, Manitoba
I am remembering the folly of war, the death and destruction, the utter futility of war. I am remembering all sentient beings who have been victims of war. I am hoping and praying that, as a species, we will come to our senses and stop this insanity.
I’m remembering and honouring those who died fighting, including close family members. I’m holding a ‘candle’ to civilians who died, to survivors of conflict, to unswerving hope that fighting can be replaced by dialogue and negotiation; that greed for power will diminish so that humanity can thrive. Faith, someone said, is a dance of the present; hope is the melody of the future.
The disruption and tragedy caused by ALL wars. The loss of family members, either in the Services or as civilians in wartorn areas. 4 years of my Dad’s life as a member of RCAF, when I was a small child and only saw him occasionally while my Mom had to go out to work to support us. My husband’s recurring nightmares, even after decades, of hiding in his Grandma’s cellar as a small child in Holland, while strafing bullets ripped over the bricks of the house from raiding planes. And we had it pretty easy in Canada! Rationing was a bit of a nuisance, but we never went hungry like Europe did.
An end to cruel slaughter & wounding of thousands & the destruction of houses, farms, infrastructure & pollution of land. Peace, grateful for the return of relatives & friends from danger who were at war in other countries, & sadness at the great loss of life, civilian & military people. Plus the enormous task of rebuilding in countries which had been devastated by war. The idea that countries could work together in such matters peacefully. I was 10 yrs old when 2nd world war ended.
All people who perished in all wars as a “collateral damage”.
REMEMBRANCE DAY It has been said by some that our First Nation people should get over the tragedy of the Residential schools and the 60’s scoop and get on with their lives – “suck it up buttercup”. But they remember for “Seven Generations”. There is now some evidence in “epigenetics” that those major emotional moments, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, etc. are able to be passed on from one generation to the next. About 90% of our genes were thought to be waste, to encode for “reptilian” proteins that we no longer use, but we are finding that there may be a use for this part of our DNA. This would explain “Karma” and “Deja vu” and the “sins of our fathers” being passed on down. There also maybe actual DNA changes too. We are seeing that the Hibakusha survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are passing on a higher incidence of cancers to their progeny. When a person dies (as I am coming to that age when friends are passing on), we have a Memorial Service or a celebration of their life that is sometimes followed by a wake or party. Today, we collectively remember the First World War, the War to end all wars, the Second World War, the Korean, (Vietnam), and Afghanistan. In the week leading up to November 11th, we remember the Holocaust. We also remember the “collateral damage” of those in the merchant marine, and special groups (Aboriginal Veterans Day, 8th November, today!). We remember to learn from our history, and hopefully not repeat it. But sometimes this remembering of a victory, such as the Battle of the Boyne (river in Ireland) in 1690, by the Protestant Orangemen and women, that celebrates the victory of Protestant King William III of Orange and his wife Queen Mary II, (his cousin and daughter of King James II) over Catholic King James II who had been deposed, still stirs up unrest, particularly in Northern Ireland Like in most things, there are always two sides of the story. The Yom Kippur Six Day War is called the Ramadan War by the Arabs. The Vietnam War is called the American War by the Vietnamese. We celebrate Remembrance Day and the Australian and New Zealanders have Anzac Day (25th of April). There are those that wear the red poppy to remember the red blood that was shed, remembering the soldiers sacrifice and their heroism. We have our Poem – “In Flanders Fields” “the poppies grow, between the crosses, row on row” by Canadian doctor Lieutenant Col. John McCrae, 1915. He later told the chaplain of the unit what he meant when he wrote that critical line: “Take up our quarrel with the foe; To you from failing hands we throw the torch…” By foe, he meant war itself, and by the torch meant the passion and will to realize the ideal of putting an end to war itself. We sometimes take it another way of carrying on the violence. There are those that wear the white poppy, that was first sold in 1933 by the Co-operatives Women’s Guild – why is it that women have these good ideas? The Voice of Women promoted this in Canada. The white poppy celebrates peace, Armistice Day, the end of the war. It is like other peace symbols; the dove, the olive wreath and the Peace Crane project. One can wear both. (see a good article in our Oct.-Dec. 2019 Peace Magazine on White and Red Poppies. http://peacemagazine.org/archive/index.php?id=2671) In the history of war, it traditionally has been men and their sons that went to war and were killed. Unfortunately, we are now seeing civilians being exterminated with nuclear weapons (Hiroshima and Nagasaki) and women and girls in particular, Rape of Nanjing, the Chinese capital at that time, by the Japanese in 1938, and the Korean, Chinese and Pilipino “comfort” women (sex slaves) of the Japanese. The Nobel Peace Prize in 2018 went to Dr. Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad. He, for trying to stop and treat the rape and mutilation of women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s civil war but also around the coltan mines (see Canadian doctor Samantha Nutt and her organization “War Child”). Nadia Murad, an Iraqi Yazidi young woman human rights advocate who was sexually abused – sex slave – by ISIS and has spoken out against it. In Canada, we have the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Children and the problem of human trafficking. “The UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1820 (2008), which determined that the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict constitutes both a war crime and a threat to international peace and security.” – Wikipedia Sacrifice is another term that comes up at this time of year, the sacrifice of the lives of our soldiers and civilians. One definition on the Internet is “an act of slaughtering an animal or person or surrendering a possession as an offering to God or to a divine or supernatural figure or; destruction or surrender of something for the sake of something else”. In Genesis, we see Cain, Adam and Eve’s first born son, the farmer, killing his brother Abel, the shepherd after God favoured Abel’s sacrifice of a lamb. We have Abraham going to kill his son Isaac but then killed a ram instead. One interpretation though of this is that Isaac was to be raised up as an “offering”; showing humankind a perfect child by his parents and that one was never to sacrifice a child. I view all these types of sacrifices as a superstition and something to be abhorred. Unfortunately, it seems to be universal through time and location, from the Incas to the Europeans, etc. To me, God is love, a force that doesn’t need sacrifices. In talking to soldiers, it is rare to die for King and Country, or Freedom or other ideals. People sign up as everyone else is doing it, and it is for friendship and relations. It is the Marines going back to rescue a fellow comrade or bring back a body. Collegiality is what motivates us. As mentioned in a previous essay, Paul Chappell saw “honour” as a fundamental need but this leads to honour killings which to me, we should try to overcome and relegate as a not useful need. Similarly, “saving face” for me is low down on the totem pole or pyramid of needs. These are the things that cause war, along with greed. To me, sacrifice should be to make something sacred, and that is life. We sacrifice out of love. Parenting is that. We give of ourselves and wealth to our children and friends, in love. We need to remember, to let bad things “never again” happen. Life is sacred. We need to work, love, sacrifice for our children, and friends to make the world a better place, by addressing climate change and eliminating nuclear weapons. In Peace, Richard
I do not know how many people died in the First World War, that is a figure that I have never seen made prominent. The claim is that 60 million people died during the Second World War of which two countries, Germany and the Soviet Union, lost more than 40 million. I have no idea how many people died to satisfy American corporate control of the people and resources of the planet. I could only opine that it is likely a lot more than those of the so called two world wars just mentioned. What is the figure?
Two groups of people: the far too many civilians who have died in conflicts over the last century, since the so-called “war to end all wars”; and the Canadians who tried valiantly to stop fascism early in Spain 1936-39.
I remember that within 10 years of the end of WW1, war was outlawed. Around the world, revulsion to war, to war profiteering, and to the support that mainstream religions had given to the Great War, resulted in the Kellog-Briand Pact – officially ” the General Treaty for Renunciation of War as an Instrument of National Policy”. Every major nation ratified the treaty that outlawed war, threats of war, manipulating political processes to initiate war, publishing material inciting war, teaching war as a positive value. The act remains in effect! In the United States, the Senate approved the treaty 85–1; the Act still has full force and effect of federal law. I want to see the Act fully implemented! It was done – the Nuremberg Trials were established to try Crimes Against Peace – far more heinous than any Crimes of War of Crimes Against Humanity, because those were the inevitable side-effects of initiating war. It can be done again. The promoters of war, those who argue that war is inevitable, and can only be stopped by more war, are criminals, and need to be prosecuted as criminals.
My most prized peace button is from the early 80’s I think. It is a plastic black square with two doves, each bearing a red poppy. It reads, “To remember is to end all war.” On November 11 we tend to imagine World Wars I and II, in which young men died in rural fields of mud. We often romanticize their slaughter, and inaccurately think of them all as “heroes”, choosing to lay down their lives for “our freedom”. During PeaceQuest Kingston’s 5 year acknowledgment the centenary of World War I, I worked with Linda Dale to create warandchildren.com. This rich resource is devoted to the study of how children have been affected by wars around the world since 1914. It is both a teaching tool for students from grades 7 to college, and also a virtual museum to inform the general public. Now on November 11, my thoughts go to the victims of modern wars: the innocent civilians, especially children, who are traumatized and die in urban settings, and the ensuing famines and environmental disasters caused by our collective failure to solve conflicts without violence. To remember is to work for peace.
I am remembering the victims of lethal violence: those burned and irradiated in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945; those gassed or blown up in the trenches in World War I (where my father served, as an officer in the Royal Canadian Artillery); those exterminated in Nazi concentration camps in World War II, or blown up by bombs, and those who valiantly successfully defended their land in the siege of Stalingrad; the thousands and thousands of victims killed in regime change operations undertaken by the US both before and after WW II; the people dying because of floods and fires, storms and drought — climate change that could be mitigated and moderated by using funds wasted on building nuclear and other arsenals and by taxing the wealthy in our grossly inequitable world, where poverty and hunger destroy the lives of many here and in poor countries of the world; the many Indigenous lives stolen by white Settlers through theft of Indigenous lands and children. Canadians have much to remember and mourn as we reflect on our country’s actions and world history over the past 150 years. Phyllis Creighton
I remember/reflect on the millions of women and girls raped in every war.
I’m remembering my parents, who met in England during WW2. They married and had my 2 older siblings before the war ended. My mom immigrated as a War Bride and they tried homesteading north of Edmonton but it proved to be too rough for my mom with 2 young children and another on the way. She was very particular about cleanliness. They had running water, it ran in the front door and out the back. If not for the war, I would not exist. I will be thinking about Hitler and the Nazi party in Germany, about how he came in with great ideas for building a better economy, creating pride in their race and eventually committing horrendous atrocities that the world seems to have forgotten. Not in Germany, but elsewhere. The far right has been busy recruiting during the pandemic, finding support in every corner of the globe, taking advantage of the restrictions governments have imposed, to protest for “freedom” as their constitutional right. Brainwashing the weak and vulnerable by satisfying one of our basic human needs, the need to feel like they belong. They have been fed a constant diet of misinformation, which they will regurgitate at every opportunity. They’ve created a mistrust of any mass media and feed their followers only their propaganda. They make their stance sound reasonable so as not to trigger suspicion in their devotees. Good people are being led down this rabbithole with no escape plan. It’s not hard to imagine them taking up arms against us. I hope and pray with every fibre of my being, that they will be exposed before that happens.
I am remembering the survivors and families of the Residential Schools in all of Canada and USA. At this time they are unearthing more children’s graves. I am against wars as it is the civilians-women & children who suffer the most. recently because of needless wars, there are enormous humanitarian disasters, displaced refugees and death. We should not be glorifying this action!