The simple root of remembrance.
Each year, Remembrance Day can be framed in a new way or considered from a different perspective in the time since the previous one.
In 1933, it was the white poppy. As we all know, inspired by John McCrae’s poem “In Flanders Fields”, the red poppy is believed to have first appeared as a symbol of remembrance during the first World War. The starkly different white poppy came about afterwards as the sign of those who were against war in the wake of one they hoped to never see again. Spearheaded by the Women’s Cooperative Guild, the colourless flower was a sign for peace activism. The choice to wear one has been a topic for discussion ever since, and remains a focus of news coverage to this year. The debate of whether it’s offensive to veterans or not seems to be an undying one.
Likewise, there are always a few notable or public figures that decidedly refuse to wear the poppy. Some because they prefer not to single out one charity they support as a public figure, and others because it simply means something different to them. For one, footballer James McClean refuses to wear a poppy this year because of what the symbol means to those of Ireland’s north, in light of the 1972’s Bloody Sunday massacre.
Every year there is talk of the way war is portrayed in current media, whether it’s the more classic debate of violence in movies, or the slightly more modern discussion of war in video games. Given the popularity of Medal of Honour, Call of Duty, and other warfare games, the debate around their depiction and alleged glorification of war is likely to last in some form for as long as they do.
There’s also the debate over the inclusion of Remembrance Day ceremonies at schools. Two years ago the 11th fell on a weekend, and as such the regular service that many, like myself, have grown used to attending at Brock was not held. Each year, there is an elementary school or high school in the news that omits a ceremony due to resources or time. Sometimes it’s clearly justified and other times, not so much.
All of these questions, whether they seem complex or simple to you, are none the less important. As our world and our cultures grow, these developments will naturally present themselves, and there will be no other choice but to face them and hopefully learn from them.
However, I think it’s worth noting that, every single year, there is a simple and timeless core to Remembrance Day, and that’s to make sure you remember. Regardless of today’s politics, the current wars or whatever else, the sacrifices already made cannot be changed. Especially concerning the two World Wars, it’s very difficult to rewrite history, despite any new information available to us. It should be clear, no matter how or where or when, that remembrance is the point of this, and that’s a simple thing. It may not always be easy, or convenient, but it isn’t complex, and it definitely isn’t debatable. I take comfort in that truth; something can stay the same every year, and mean just as much every time. Keep that in mind this year.
Lest we forget.