Lest we forget as war persists a century later
It was to be the “war to end all wars,” but even 100 years ago, that description was greeted with deserved skepticism.
And sure enough, a full century later, poppies still “blow between the crosses, row on row” as a reminder of the horrors of the First World War, but the tombstones continue to multiply.
Sunday, on the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day, at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month, peace on Earth seems more elusive than ever.
This weekend, at cenotaphs and other sites across this region, the country and around the world, we will honour our dead, and thank our veterans, and pray for peace.
But few believe that will ever be possible. Humankind is a killer species, and we have short memories.
Most Remembrance Day events are a tribute to veterans, as well they should be.
These brave men and women are among the few who have known the true horror of war.
The lucky ones who survived the battlefields 100 years ago at Ypres, Vimy Ridge, Passchendaele and the Somme, to name only a few, helped shape the future of the world, but even they could not bring a lasting peace.
Indeed, one of the deadliest wars in human history was followed by an even deadlier one, and as the number of military personnel killed increased, so too did the number of civilian casualties.
Amid the horror of the Second World War, Canadians distinguished themselves in the Battle of Britain, in the Atlantic, in Hong Kong, in Italy, on Juno beach, at Dieppe ...
But when the dust had settled, the rest of the world learned anew what atrocities humankind was capable of even beyond the battlefield, and what miseries we are prepared to visit upon others.
And still, the end of the Second World War was simply another beginning.
Canada’s soldiers and their allies around the world showed us all there was a light in the distance and hope in the world, but a new darkness fell almost immediately.
Canadians entered the battlefields as soldiers or peacekeepers in Korea, in the Balkans, in the Middle East, in Somalia, and of course Afghanistan, among many others.
Humans everywhere continue to witness horrors, either up close as determined soldiers, as stunned civilians caught in the crossfire, or as safe but helpless witnesses watching from afar, and many of us could not even bear that.
Soldiers and civilians, dead and alive, fight oppression and genocide, fascism and terrorism, barbarism and imperialism.
They fight for freedom, and, ironically, they fight for peace.
But those who plan the victories are often not those left managing the aftermath.
Those who promise glory and gratitude for soldiers are too often absent when veterans return to face inadequate health care or support.
Too often we forget, but we should all know by now that one battle invariably leads to another, that grief invariably accompanies glory, that allies can quickly become enemies, that victory is often declared too soon — and that the rumblings of the next war can be heard already in the hateful rhetoric of populist politicians or the ignorant ramblings of internet trolls.
But when the dust had settled, the rest of the world learned anew what atrocities humankind was capable of ...