It’s Remembrance Day.
As is customary when living in smaller communities, I attended the civic ceremony the city of Camrose put on.
I’m consistently underwhelmed and disappointed by these things.
First of all, the people who assemble are almost uniformly white.
The ceremonies themselves are entirely “Christian”.
The crowd gets thinner and thinner every year.
These things are not unconnected.
Look, I get that for most of the actual Camrose vets still living, that’s the culture. But if the city wants to keep this tradition alive, and even growing, they need to recognize that Camrose is not the same as it was 100 years ago. It’s not even the same as it was a decade ago.
People of colour live here. People of different faiths live here. First Nations people live here.
They deserve to be at least a footnote, but this year, not even women got much of a mention.
And that’s not the worst of it.
In addition to excluding huge swathes of people whose families suffered just as much loss as white, Protestant ones did, the fact that it was the hundredth year anniversary of the WW1 Armistice (and can someone please teach MP Kevin Sorenson how to pronounce that word?) the catch phrase of “Lest We Forget” got tossed in at every available moment possible.
But what are we really in danger of forgetting?
To the speakers, it was simply the worn-out sentiment of “they-died-for-our-freedom” – the valourization of the warrior. Essentially, this perpetuates what amounts to a death-cult.
What I remember is that these predominantly white, Protestant communities clamoured to go to war. They were excited and aroused by the idea of war.
What I remember is that the Great War decimated, or in some communities, wiped out whole generations of young men.
What I remember is that this country of Canada, with its vaunted freedoms, turned away 900 Jews fleeing the Holocaust – turned them away knowing full well that they would be put to death if they returned to Germany.
What I remember is that many, many Muslims, many ,many First Nations people, and many, many women lost their lives in these conflicts.
They deserve, now more than ever, to be honoured by those of us who have consistently reaped the benefits of those wars – and did so on the backs of those people’s sacrifices.
If even now, we cannot see our own behavior clearly enough to stop mouthing jingoistic platitudes and get to grips with the real questions these conflicts pose, then we have committed ourselves to remembering the wrong things – to remembering the very things that those young men and women pleaded with us to turn away from.
If you doubt me: First Nations canada knew