Saturday, 10 November 2007

Thoughts on Remembrance Day

Today, on the day before November 11th, it seems appropriate to start my Rantings & Ravings in earnest with something I wrote right after witnessing the Remembrance Day ceremonies from the Cenotaph in Ottawa in 1998.

Some people will disagree with what I wrote instinctively then, and that I know to be the truth (after some more extensive reading since) today. If you want to know more about what went on then, all you need do is to read Margaret MacMillan's Paris 1919 published by Random House in 2003. This highly-rated book describes in detail just how the leaders of the U.K. and France, who had learned absolutely nothing between 1914 and 1918, (and to a lesser extent President Wilson of the U.S.) laid the ground work that is responsible for everything that followed.

November 11, 1998

It's Wednesday after-noon, gray, windy, cold. The CBC broadcast of the ceremonies commemorating the 80th anniversay of World War I, reminding us of the millions of men, women, and children killed by war in this century, is just over.

There were thoughtful words to remember the sacrifices made - for many "the ultimate sacrifice", that stirring euphemism for life ended prematurely, violently. Thoughtful words from chaplains, veterans, and broadcast commentators about the need to defend freedom and democracy even unto death.

Unspoken - someone else's death. Not the speaker's, not that of those watching the ceremony, including me.

Thoughts pass through my mind. What or who caused those deaths, who is responsible? Surely not that all-powerful, all-good god of the christian believers who sits above it all watching silently, doing nothing! No, who on earth is responsible?

No, it's not the soldiers. They're just the instrument - they kill, they die!

But who is responsible for starting the killings that we have to remember every year, at least on this day?

Politicians give the orders to go to war, only politicians - never soldiers. Politicians make wars - through acts of omission as much as through acts of commission.

We wouldn't have to remember the millions (100 million innocent civilians and soldiers) who were killed during this century, if the politicians who elected themselves and who let themselves be elected to lead the many countries involved in the various conflicts had done their jobs conscientiously.

On this day we remember first of all World War I. But, if there had been no World War I, there would have been no Russian Revolution, no Stalin, no Hitler, no World War II, no Korean War, nor many of the other conflicts since then.

And what was World War I about? Saving democracy? Ridding the world of a mad dog of a dictator? No, none of those admirable and necessary things we talk about on Remembrance Day have anything to do with World War I!

World War I was a mistake made by foolish politicians in Austria, Russia, and Germany in response to an act of Serbian terrorism. And it was an act of omission by the vainglorious leaders of Britain and France who refused to do what was necessary to defuse the situation because they thought they had the right to control the world.

So, today we have to remember that millions of human beings died miserable deaths because of a few stupid old men in 1914. And death is never glorious, no matter how beautiful the poetry or the monuments! Only life can be glorious! That's what we must always remember!

And, we must, at all cost, remember to keep our politicians in check!

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