On remembering the past, and the present

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Remembrance Day is most often related to the First and Second World Wars, commemorating the fallen soldiers from a time few Canadians can remember.

These soldiers went off to fight a war in a different time in history, a time when conscription was alive and well and going off to die for your country was a matter, perhaps, of pride and honour. But it was also a necessity—and what was expected of you. While veterans of the World Wars are treated with the respect and gratitude deserving of the heroes they are and were, often the more recent veterans and the soldiers who currently serve Canada are ignored.

This may be because the current veterans have made a choice to serve and were not faced with conscription, but does this not make their efforts particularly courageous? These men and women have voluntarily put their lives on the line. Should that not merit equal recognition?

However, perhaps controversy and apathy surrounding military service are less about why the soldiers fight and more about the reasons war happens in the modern world. Looking back to the time of the Second World War, a time many of us never knew, people have a feeling of righteousness. Combatting Hitler and the Nazis seems like a war worth fighting. However, looking back on Afghanistan, a war that most Canadians can remember, it’s not so cut and dry, and feelings are mixed. Why did we even fight? Was it about resources or religion? Was it even about our country? Did we do the right thing? In light of the 158 Canadian lives lost in Afghanistan, we owe them equal remembrance regardless of whether or not we are in agreement with the war they fought. These are still lives lost.

Canada receives an increasing number of immigrants in modern times, who may not be well-acquainted with Canadian history. Some people object to these new Canadian citizens placing scarlet poppies on their lapels, since they believe newcomers to Canada have nothing to do with their own past or cannot comprehend it, or that they are simply not qualified to pay tribute to the fallen soldiers of their country. War is no longer seen as something directly related to the general public, but rather as a fight only fought by soldiers and their families. In the past, our grandparents saw soldiers going off to war as protectors and experienced the wartime by means of war bonds and saving rations. While recent generations are faced with remembering a past they aren’t closely associated with, non-Canadian citizens may also face remembrance unknown to them.

While it is known that people still fight overseas, war is experienced with much less attachment than the romanticized version of the courageous soldiers of the past. We back home in Canada are still a part of those conflicts. We must take responsibility for our place in the world and remain present.

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