Word came out of my home province that yet again someone in a position of relatively minor authority was grandstanding on the tradition of Remembrance Day. A Banque Nationale branch manger was refusing to pay $48 for a wreath. My eyes rolled. Here we go again, I thought.
It’s hard for me not to go there because this seems to be an annual thing in Quebec. It makes me sad. Not because I am ashamed of my home, but because, out of ignorance, we are missing a chance at healing. Some traditions need to remain sacred.
In fairness to some, the issues that parts of Quebec have had with Remembrance Day go back to original protests against conscription in WWI. Not having been alive then, I won’t comment on the original debate. It came at another time in another era. Had our government leaders known then what we know now about the horrors of war, maybe things would have gone on a different path.
Suffice it to say, though, that a major lesson of those original debates is that Remembrance Day should never be about glorifying war. It is to remember the fallen, to thank those who serve, and to pause to remember that Peace is elusive. By and large, Remembrance Day has already evolved in our country in the way many people agree it should. We don’t glorify war in this country. We mourn what it causes. We give thanks for those who served, who serve and who are thinking of serving. We are not perfect but we are not blind to the complex issues around our military and world conflict.
So what gets me is that 100 years later, the efforts to have remembrance day continue to evolve doesn’t need to be so petty as what just happened at the bank. In fact, the pettiness drags down the whole spirit of Remembrance Day- namely peace.
So first of all, let me say that I am proud to be part of the community of Carleton Memorial United Church – a community that was founded on a desire to work for peace through honouring the legacy of those who gave and give their lives in service of the greater good. The Remembrance Day service we have planned for this Sunday, November 6, is inspired by that legacy.
Secondly, as someone who always searches for the greater lesson, it makes me wonder how many other places and in how many other ways we get ourselves off track.
Which leads to me think that a modern addition to our national tradition could be or should be (?), about how we celebrate peace. Another modern addition to our tradition could be or should be (?), about taking time to truly grieve where we continue to fail at resting in peace.
Imagine the possibilities.
A national day of rest.
Celebrations and formal talks right across the nation.
Recognition and acceptance of past failings.
Forgiveness asked for and bestowed.
An annual reminder to lay down our arms out of trust.
No bloodshed, either real or spiritual, for a day.
Not just for our European cultures, but for all cultures.
Not to tear down or belittle – but – to build up and encourage.
Certainly Remembrance Day has ethno-centric roots. But that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing – provided our tradition is used to include people. Shared in the proper way, this could be a gift to the world – a light to the nations.
A simple, yet not so idle thought.