What is the meaning of Remembrance Day?
Remembrance Day is held on Nov. 11 because it represents the end of hostilities from the First World War on the same date in 1918.
The ceremony is observed in Commonwealth countries under the name of Remembrance Day and in other countries by other names – like Veterans’ Day in the United States.
The ceremony represents unification under the ideals of democracy, human rights and rule of law. The purpose is to remember the fallen that defended our ideals and our beliefs in the face of death.
The First World War was the first war that an official Canadian military participated in. It was a conflict between empires, a creation in politics that we idealistically regard as being antiquated and damaging to the cause of peace.
When the war ended, the Paris Peace Conference was attended by representatives of the major participating nations in the war and tried to create a state of tranquility in global affairs by assigning responsibility for the conflict and developing a plan to repair.
A result of the conference was the creation of the League of Nations, an international body that took on the challenge of maintaining peace through conflict prevention and the cooperation of competing nations through disarmament.
The tragedy is there. The League of Nations failed and the world was thrown into global conflict for a second time, just 21 years after the Armistice of the Great War.
The end of the Second World War was a triumph over fascism, extreme right-wing ideology, extreme nationalism, protectionism, isolationism and opposition to liberalism.
It also represented a triumph over mass mobilization and “total war,” the idea that conflict should spread throughout a country and possess the minds of soldiers and citizens alike to unify everybody against an enemy and not tolerate any criticism of the war effort.
The United Nations came up from the ashes of the Second World War. A flawed, yet hopeful organization of global cooperation that wishes to prevent conflict and facilitate economic development.
Now we arrive at the current state of war on the planet. What are these wars that we fight in the modern age?
Some people say they are reflections of imperialism, colonialism and failed politics.
On the other hand, they can be seen as nation building, cooperation, peacekeeping or a struggle against extremism.
Regardless of what one thinks of these wars, the truth is that people around the world are affected by them and are, as a result, victims of the same cyclical violence that has existed since the birth of humankind.
Do we appreciate tragedy? Do we have the ability to understand something that is tragic and feel the real human emotions that go along with that?
Alternatively, some wars, like the Second World War, are not absolute tragedies. War is occasionally a necessary evil.
This is a struggle. Without fighting and defending ourselves we become a target for more powerful groups that would try to make us less free and less democratic.
However, the fighting does not make this reality go away. There is a slight chance that one day the whole world will disarm and we will all live in peace. But this may not be in the near future.
There is much work that needs to be done before countries can abandon racism, fear, the pursuit of power, enslavement, conflict, inequality and the abuse of our resources and allies.
But there is hope. Canadians and many other people around the world hold high ideals of equality and perfection. A cynic would ask why we have these ideals if the struggle is endless.
The obvious response is to educate that person about the course of history and how these ideals have been the most important, if not the only thing, that has created progress and change towards more democratic and tolerant societies.
We want to establish something important. There is a difference between educated patriotism that is hopeful for progress and aware of flaws and blind patriotism, which symbolizes ignorance of real criticisms of the current state of the world and the countries that exist in it.
Canada is not a perfect country. But, much like the United Nations, it attempts to create a free and peaceful world that tolerates differences and works towards a brighter future.
We are all flawed. But the struggle will continue and we should never forget the people who have participated in this struggle for the sake of our ideals and our beliefs, the things that are most painful to part with.