This Sunday we will once again observe Remembrance Day.
While some now view it as nothing more than another statutory holiday (though it isn’t in some provinces), the meaning and the warning of it (Lest We Forget) has never been more important.
There are many now for whom Remembrance Day is several generations removed. They may not even know that grandfathers and great-grandfathers served and died in the First and Second world wars. There are, of course, younger veterans now, but not in the same overwhelming numbers as from those two massive global conflicts. If we were to have a war on that scale now, with the weapons at our disposal, we would likely obliterate the entire world. Note that the Second World War Pacific conflict ended with the dropping of the first atomic bombs.
Just as the younger generation may be fuzzy on who and where their forebears served, so are they likely fuzzy on why. When we say that we mean the larger “why”, and not the fact that some were simply young men looking for adventure, at least at the beginning.
It shows nowhere as much as in the current worldwide political arena, where extremist right wing parties and outright fascists are once again building strength and support. So vile were these once seen to be in post-war Europe, in particular, that it would have been impossible for them to exist, let alone get a foothold not only in politics, but in the popular consciousness.
Remember, these are nations that endured Hitler and Mussolini. Remember, what embracing these kinds of movements led to, the atrocities, the blood and the death. Remember, the hatred and horror, the racism and the massacre of millions.
It’s a complex psychology that people have written entire books on, so there is not time or space here for an in-depth analysis. But consider that it starts with income inequality and frustration, gains momentum with promises from a saviour to fix the problems, which the saviour conveniently pins on whichever “them” will be most palatable to “us”. The divisions turn into chasms, the fear and hatred grows, our worst, formerly momentary prejudices increasingly spoken aloud and multiplied in the light of day.
It is these things we must guard against — Lest We Forget the cost if we don’t. Right now we are failing. This Nov. 11, let’s all pledge to demand better.