It’s no mistake that it marks the end of The Great War, and that its name is Remembrance Day. Even now, can many people say with clarity why The Great War was fought, beyond a shallow quip about Archduke Ferdinand?
Fundamentally, the Great War was a war of economic and imperial aggression; fought for the elite and by the poor. Those who fought died in numbers hitherto unseen, their bodies piled deep in muddy, bloody trenches. Their hearts were so often filled with nationalism, the rhetoric of which gave common ignorance the opportunity to mold itself into hatred and fear. From this arose genocides and atrocities the likes of which we had thought civilization had progressed beyond.
And so we are asked to recollect and reflect upon the immense tragedy of unchecked aggression, the unutterable despair that ignorance and hatred has wrought upon humanity, and to honour the veterans that have served us in times of great need. It is not a day to honour veterans for their victories, but to honour them for having experienced those horrors first-hand which we should strive forever to avoid.
I’d like to extend this olive branch to those who prickle at the concept of Remembrance Day: not all who serve the public good are soldiers, and not all who deserve recollection are public servants. The Great War and the conflicts that followed are rooted in lamentable human traits that persist outside of state conflicts. And so it’s well within reason to reflect upon those acts of violence and aggression which are not the product of wars, but are still the products of ignorance, hatred, bigotry and fear.
Let us all spend some time on November 11 to reflect upon victims of domestic violence, or upon the children who suffered at the hands of the residential school program, or victims of rape, or anyone else marginalized and harmed by the products of humanity’s darker nature and a culture that has yet to find a way to end such suffering.