Lest we for­get as war per­sists a cen­tury later

The Niagara Falls Review - - Opinion -

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 ...

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