Somewhat ironically, there is an occasion often lost in the hurried commercial changeover between Halloween and Christmas. It is not a time of celebration. It is not a time for jovial parades. It’s a quiet time. A sombre time. One which is usually lost on those who have benefited from it the most.
We are a privileged generation. We have never truly known conflict. We have lead relatively sheltered lives where the greatest threat to our wellbeing is typically finding a way to get through post-secondary without a massive mountain of student loans… then getting a job. This is not to say Remembrance Day should cause us shame due to our comparatively easy struggles—we do face challenges and they can be difficult. However, we should not dismiss November 11 simply because it is so far removed from the general populace’s memory.
But it is hard, if not impossible, for us to possibly fathom just how many lives were lost. World War II saw over 70 million casualties—nearly twice Canada’s current population. By comparison, Operating Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan has suffered just over 3,500 Western Coalition military deaths. Even compared to the US’s WWII military losses alone (roughly 400,000), the Western losses in Afghanistan are less than one per cent (0.875).
Of course, the current generation must take responsibility. But there is also some accountability that falls to those who raised us. Our values are instilled in us from a young age. We don’t generally come up with them of our own accord, however advanced we may be during those developing years.
Many of my friends’ parents never took them to a cenotaph on Remembrance Day. Some didn’t even watch it on TV as ceremonies took place across the country. I’ve known some who even skipped the ceremonies during school.
Why should the current state of thinking be any surprise then? Why should we marvel that it’s far more common to complain about poppies pricking people than taking a moment to reflect on what that poppy represents?
If parents’ feelings of casualness, even apathy, are imprinted on their children, how is Remembrance Day to truly live on? We have nothing to relate to. If the historical knowledge is not part of our consciousness, and a strong emotional appeal is not there as we grow up, then it falls to our own hands to find meaning—and that, as time has shown, is normally a fruitless endeavour indeed.
So make an effort this year. Do some extra reading. Watch a documentary. Force yourself to go to a ceremony and listen to the notes of the “Last Post” ring out over the quiet din of a drizzling rain. Especially this election year, as we’ve just seen one of our democratic rights, rights earned by our fallen soldiers, exercised. If we don’t make sure that Remembrance Day is important to this generation, what hope is there for the generation after?