Most years I do talk about Remembrance Days and what it means and it’s importance and how I think the way we commemorate the day is different from the way a lot of other people seem to commemorate this date.
To me – and, in general, to the people around I’ve seen and the country as a whole, I don’t think this day is about veterans. Oh the British Legion is there in force, of course, handing out the poppies, but I think living veterans has always been a very minor part of what this day is about in Britain.
And it certainly isn’t about honour. Or glory. Or victory. It isn’t about celebration or joy or remembering that we won or the enemies we defeated or “freedom” whatever (apart from anything else, the date chosen is the end of World War 1, the Great War – a war that was pretty much devoid of anything resembling honour, glory or even definable victory. A war which can probably be best characterised as one fought for so little in the way of actual reason beyond foolish pride and hair trigger tempers and lots of damn fools looking for a damned excuse)
To me, this day is always about loss. It’s about utter tragedy. It’s about rows upon rows upon rows of graves that had no reason to be filled. Long fields of death and loss. It’s about cities reduced to rubble, it’s about families who lost entire generations in the meat grinder of war. It’s about the refugees losing everything – it’s about blood and tears and the sheer, utter, enraging pointlessness of it all.
On this day I don’t want to hear of “honour” because honour means nothing to the millions of dead. I don’t want to hear about “glory” because the glorious dead are still dead. I don’t want to hear about “victory” because the dead never win. And I certainly loathe the creeping habit of CELEBRATING this day – you do not celebrate millions dead before their time.
This is a national day of mourning. And a day of shame – shame because the atrocity of war happened and is still happening – and we wave our flags and rattle our sabres and do not learn. Perhaps if we stopped telling the old lies, stopped treating war like a game, then maybe we would begin to truly Remember.
When we had the first 2 minute silence in the UK in 1919 it was hard – because the crowd had to fight back tears of too-fresh pain. That is what we should remember.