Thoughts on Remembrance Day
A few observations from Remembrance Day (yesterday).
There is apparently a military maneuver for "everyone shuffle over sideways; we formed up in the wrong spot". The soldiers were all able to do it in step, so they must have practiced it.
Someone changed the words to "There There be Peace on Earth". Where it once said
"With God as our Father,
Brothers all are we."
it now says
"With God our Creator,
Family all our we."
I'm not quite sure when the change occurred, but the official words are no longer the way I learned them. I am going to have to disapprove of this: "Brothers" has two syllables and matches the notes, but "family" has three. The original is also probably an allusion to Matthew 23:9, where the point is equality. For a feminist-approved variant, we could try "siblings". It would maintain the sense of the original better.
I'm not sure why we do that song anyway. Yes, it is a very nice song, and it contains the highest ideals. But it's a pacifist song: The point is acting peacefully in all circumstances.
Remembrance Day is about remembering soldiers who died in war. We are grateful to them because our peaceful, good, and free society only exists because so many people risked and/or gave their lives to protect it. The soldiers who died were largely not pacifists. (Many pacifists risked their lives e.g. caring for wounded at the front, but they were a great minority compared to the number of soldiers). If we had had a pacifist army, we wouldn't be here remembering them.
It doesn't seem a proper memorial to heroism for us all promise "we won't do what they did". Perhaps we fight too many wars and should try diplomacy more. I'm sure there's points to be made on both sides, and I certainly don't know the answer. But in this case, the call for pacifism seems inappropriate.
"In Flanders Fields" works much better. We have the both the cost of war ("crosses, row on row") and its limitation ("the larks, still... fly"). Both the uncertainties ("If ye break faith") and the certainties ("though poppies grow"). The victims are not numbers, but full people ("loved, and were loved"). But even those who pay the highest cost ("we are the dead") think it is worthwhile ("to you... we throw the torch, be yours to hold it high").
I know that not everyone approves of the call to arms ("Take up our quarrel with the foe"). Given that this was written about World War One, they can probably make a good case. But this is Remembrance Day; honoring those who fought in just wars is the whole point. It's about keeping "faith with [those] who die" protecting the rest of us. Isn't it?
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