A Pacifist Remembers November 8, 2010Posted by dreamom in Faith, family, Happiness, Life, Parenting, Peace.
It is times like this when I feel like my inner Old Lady makes an appearance. Maybe that is because my grandmother was the biggest pacifist I knew.
When I was growing up we would solemnly attend the neighbourhood Remembrance Day Ceremony, and pay respect to the people lost in wars – both in the World Wars, and wars all over the world. I remember distinctly that the ceremony always talked about the loss of civilian lives as well as the fallen heroes who worked in the military. I also remember the old shaky voices of the veterans as they talked about the experience of being in war, and imploring us as the future to not let it happen again. War was not about creating heroes or an opportunity for hero worship, but a horrible, catastrophic event that was to be avoided.
My young child mind took this to heart, and believed that these veterans were begging us to consider the cost of war, and that it was not heroes that came home, but heartbreak. Add this to the experience of having a very publicly pacifist grandmother, and I became a very pacifist me.
All that was during the Golden Age for Canada, when we were not a country at war. Now, everything is different. Some people don’t understand that while people made fun of our military for being ‘wimpy’, they were serving the essential role of “Peacekeepers”. That was a position to be proud of! Although we definitely made mistakes in that role, it was evident to the world that we valued Peace, and as such valued people. Not just the people on the ‘right side’, but the innocent people who lose their homes, livelihoods and lives when wars break out in their neighbourhoods.
Now we are a country at war. We have an active military presence in countries and we are not there to make peace. We are there inflicting our brand of justice on ‘the wrong side’, and taking civilians down in our path. That changed everything. It changed the way the world viewed us. It changed the way the people in active service viewed themselves. It changed the way that we as Canadian lay people viewed the military. It changed the way that we, Canadians, viewed the world.
Nowhere is this more evident than with the current Red vs. White Poppy controversy. There is a complete disconnect for people as to what the point is. As kids we were taught that the colour red was significant because it symbolized the blood that was spilled – the blood that flowed on the ground like rivers to lower ground – the blood that filled the waters of seas and bays, and lakes, lapping on the shore in place of the beating heat that it just left . There was no distinction of WHOSE blood. None of it was glory – just loss. That red poppy is supposed to remind us of the loss.
The white poppy is white to be a reflection of the ideal. White represents purity, and the absence of the ‘blood’ is certainly the ideal. It doesn’t suggest that anyone sacrificed in vain, but that going forward we should maintain that purity. It is a hope that new lives won’t be lost, and that peace will reign in our land, and others.
In reality it is fitting to have both. The red to remind us of the bloodshed, and to allow us to remember the cost of war on a personal level. It is in keeping the words of those WWI, and WWII veterans – the ones who implored us to lead the world down a different path so that wars would end, and peace would prevail – that we also wear the white to remind us to work towards peace in any and all situations.
Instead the whole thing has turned into a pacifist vs. veterans thing. People talk about pacifists as though they are heartless extremists who want to defile the memory of people lost in wars, and sully the experiences of those veterans who came home from wars forever changed by their experiences. There are ‘Support the Troops’ drives that people are bullied into, or labelled as traitors and ingrates if they feel that it is more about supporting the war than the troops. There is a stigma put on the white poppy, and now the Canadian Legion is talking of SUING people for wearing or supporting the white poppy campaign. Really? REALLY?! For supporting peace, and for supporting NO MORE OF OUR MILITARY BEING KILLED people want to tar and feather us?
I don’t get it. I don’t get why the notion of peace is incongruent with supporting the troops and their families, by our interest to GET THEM HOME. I don’t understand why a girl during the Gulf War was spit on and beat up for having a peace sign on her cheek. I don’t understand why the RCL is wanting to sue people for promoting peace. I don’t understand people being upset that you support the troops, but not the war.
This Remembrance Day, as all the others that my children remember I will be supplementing the message they hear at the Remembrance Day Ceremony and will be recounting the words of those veterans I heard speak as a child. The ones that hoped that their experience was not in vain, and that future generations would be able to live in peace, and that the lives of their comrades were not lost in vain, but resulted in saving others from being lost.
This Pacifist remembers the lives lost, and in response, out of a moral conviction, out of heartbreak, and out of respect for all those lost in wars – promotes peace.