On Remembrance Day.

You have certain reservations about Remembrance Day.

This is not because you are anti-war, anti those/these wars or anti Britain particularly, although some of those are somewhat true.

Remembrance Day in the UK is in some ways a historical anachronism, instituted at the end of a war which saw every family in the UK touched but where the outcome was largely inconclusive, devoid of any real sense of victory and without much material benefit for returning soldiers. The result was massive emotional investment in war memorials and the rituals surrounding them as a focus for the grief of the nation, a nation who didn’t have much to cheer about. This set the tone for the way war has been commemorated in the UK ever since, yet it is noticeable that the Second World War, a war which had some fairly obvious winners and losers, and which resulted in things like the welfare state being set up, did not produce a rash of war memorials. Names tended to be tacked on to the old World War One monuments.*

It’s this almost exclusive focus on the dead that you consider, at best, a little hypocritical, and at worst, rather dangerous.

It’s easy to say, isn’t war awful, look what it leads to, those poor dead boys, wasn’t it tragic, let’s wear this symbol, bow our heads, say we are sorry and feel morally cleansed by our acknowledgement of the horror. You worry that by wallowing in one day’s mourning, we, the non combatants, feel that we absolve ourselves of involvement in the issue of war the other 364 days of the year.

Plus, whilst you appreciate that the day is a comfort to those who have lost family or friends in war, and that this is not an inconsiderable point, nevertheless, the dead are dead. Remembrance Day can’t help them now. You consider that the focus on the dead means we lose sight of our responsibilities to living solders. Where, you wondered, is the day to support the troops currently under fire on our behalf, to celebrate the maimed, the traumatised, the returnees from war?

Well, actually, there is a day of sorts. It’s called Armed Forces Day (formerlyVeterans Day). Anyone know when that is? No, you thought not.

The thing is, you think that history is repeating itself, in that the longer we engage in a protracted, depressing and inconclusive war, the more focus will be put on Remembrance Day, to the detraction of actually doing anything about it, or about the increasing numbers of young men exposed to the unpleasantness who have to come back and try to get on with their lives.

Not to mention the people who actually have to live in areas of conflict.

So you buy your poppy and you wear it. In fact, this year you bought two pin on poppies, two stick on poppies, a Remembrance Day balloon, a sticker and a pennant, because when you discovered that you only had a five-pound note, rather overwhelmed by your largesse and the Star’s obvious excitement, the Royal British Legion‘s representative kept producing new items as you attempted to stuff your money into his collecting tin. You approve of their work.

But you don’t think November 11th is the best day to do our best thinking about war, our roles and responsibilities.

A paper poppy, worn in the United Kingdom from...

Image via Wikipedia

*You did quite a lot of research once on the meaning of First World War memorials, it bothers you that much. Some of that research ended up here.

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One thought on “On Remembrance Day.

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