Sunday, November 11, 2007

Will We Remember Them?

Another year, another Remembrance Day and I wonder how long before the relevance is questioned and the commitment of two whole minutes of silent contemplation in our time precious day is considered too much?

These are selfish times we are living in, perhaps WWII still has impact on today's society, particularly considering the lines between good and bad were much more clearly drawn than in certain recent conflicts. (Yet our soldiers continue to go wherever duty requires regardless.) There are films made, heroes commemorated and many books written on the subject of what went on during 1939-1945.

Those who remember WWI first hand are fading: it is all second-hand, sometimes third-hand memories of family members sacrificed or lucky escapes. Certainly there are the books and the photographs but not in the same way as WWII is chronicled.

Since learning the words of Dulce et Decorum Est in high school, there was a realisation of the monumental waste of human life, of future generations of possible geniuses wiped out for reasons I have yet to understand. That is the point, in WWII the motives were more clear cut, we knew what they were fighting for and why. But WWI? Oh I know the details but the link between the catalyst and the huge loss of young men huddled in filthy, dank terrifying trenches has always been sketchy. More to do with generals trying to prove themselves and resulting in needless sacrifices of the soldiers than any strategic plans - to win what exactly?

Last year we visited Ieper while in Belgium, took the Hobbits to the Menin Gate where list upon list of the names of men never found...that is just the men whose bodies disappeared in the mud forever, not the ones they did find and who lie buried beneath crisp white crosses, inspired a dreaded awe. The brilliant museum In Flanders Fields brought home the experiences of those young men, on both sides, in such a way I felt that perhaps WWI is the war we should pay tribute to more on this day.

Lifes cut short, families left to grieve and for what? The lesson wasn't learned as they did it all again 20 years later. And that is why Remembrance Day has to continue...

"...I died in Hell
(they called it Passchendaele)..."
- Siegfried Sassoon

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