Sunday, November 11, 2012

A different way of remembering...

I'm so glad to live in a country where we have the freedom to remember, to share, to live our lives as we see fit. We have these freedoms in large part because of the sacrifices of our military members. Either they lost their own lives in the process, or returned home to lives irrevocably changed from the experience. José Narosky got it right when he wrote, "In war, there are no unwounded soldiers."

Whatever their individual stories, it's our responsibility to remember and appreciate not only on November 11th, but on any day of the year when we can simply go about the day-to-day routines of modern life. For we can only do so because of them.

I've noticed over the years that Remembrance Day tends to get under the skin of some folks. Not sure what to call them: maybe anti-war protesters, or peace activists. Most of them seem to subscribe to the notion that all war is wrong, that humanity should never go to war. They often use November 11th as a platform to share their opposition to anything remotely associated with the military. Sometimes they take great care to let soldiers know they don't oppose them, per se, but the concept of war in general. Sometimes they don't.

I've got issues with the whole "war is wrong" thing. Sure, there's nothing desirable about using military force to pursue national interests - or any interests, if we're being frank. There is nothing noble about one human trying to extinguish the life of another. Ideally, no one should have to take to a battlefield. Ideally, we'd all be able to gather around a table, negotiate our differences into history, then sing a few bars of Kumbaya while someone fetches some celebratory marshmallows and sparklers.

But here's the deal: there are no universal ideals in humanity. Hatred lives among us. So does megalomania, cruelty, misogyny, tribalism and a whole lot of other behavioural contexts that are clearly out of step with the concept of life well lived. We're a couple of generations removed from a nation's quest to wipe my kind from the face of the world. The inhuman vitriol continues to this day: I have the distinct pleasure of cruising YouTube and watching videos of children being gleefully taught to hate Jews. An Afghani girl continues to fight for her life after Taliban gunmen shot her in the head. Her crime? She wanted an education.

If you're a peacenik, would you have kept your guns down and allowed that girl to be shot? Would you have sat idly by and done nothing while Hitler and his kind painted Europe black? Would you have waited for the Nazi wave to wash over North America, as well? You may think, simplistically, that "war is bad," but if not for the sacrifices of so many, we'd all be speaking another language. And many of us wouldn't be here at all.

Sometimes the only solution to combat the awfulness that beats just below - or on - the surface of the human condition is to pick up a gun and fight it with everything you've got. Sure, it sucks. War sucks. But the alternative is far worse. And heaven help us if we ever forget that force is sometimes the only way a just society can navigate the darkness and see its way through to the other side.

Today is as good a day as any to remember that. Tomorrow might be a good day to remember, as well.


Harry Cohen said...

I think you can summarize it as, war is bad, but sometimes the alternative is worse. But the problem is that there are those who use war to their own advantage even when the alternative ISN'T worse.

mmp said...

for many reasons i appreciate this post

Hilary said...

Very well said.

TexWisGirl said...

a wonderful piece.

congrats on your POTW.

Dianne said...

congrats on your POTW

photowannabe said...

Carmi, you have said this so well. Thank you for posting this.
Well put saying that perhaps we would all be speaking another language.
I agree that war and the ravages of war suck, but the alternative can be so much worse.