We Will Remember

We’ve just suffered through another interminably dull and boring series of hypocritical antics involving pious prayers, poppies, and pomposity, from the so-called politicals and pundits, pontificating ever more profoundly and perversely than is their usual pleasure.

Yes, it was Remembrance Day, or Veteran’s Day, depending on whether you’re buried to the east or west of the pond, and it’s always good to put on a show for the dead.

In Britain, at the Cenotaph, parliament assembled as it does every year, all draped in the same black raincoat, with the same bedraggled nylon poppy propped into the buttonhole with safety pins and the odd spot of old chewing gum.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown led the prayer of remembrance, solemnly swearing to sheath the sacrificial knives, before repairing to his office and a quick check of how many British soldiers in Afghanistan had been killed or maimed that day. After all, the figures effect his ratings, and the election’s not that far away.

In America, at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, a similar group of pathetic butchers perform the same grotesque ceremony. They offer similarly hollow pledges to the relatives and friends of those whose only remaining link to life is a name carved in a wall – along with a few million other fellow’s names – before slipping away for a quick Scotch and soda, or two, before luncheon.

I suppose we must thank God for their pomposity. After all, without it how could they live with themselves? The pomposity makes them feel useful, strong, capable of playing their war games, of condemning men and women to die for their whims, for their fancies. Without the pomposity, they could never find the audacity.

“Veteran’s Day” is a somewhat silly name, but then, it was chosen by politicians. After all, November 11th is the anniversary of the armistice that ended the First World War. They’re all dead. There’s no WW1 veterans left to have a “day” for.

“Remembrance Day” is much better, except that we’re expected to remember the wrong things. It’s a day to remember those who fell in the two great wars, is what we’re told. What on earth for? I’m sixty-two years old and knew nobody who fell in Flanders Fields, so what chance those much younger than I?

Here’s what I’d tell the young of today, both in Europe and America: the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month is a time to remember. It’s a day to recollect just how fucking stupid the human race has been, how cold-blooded, uncaring, murderous, and so unfeeling of our fellow beings that time and time again we’ve sunk to the greatest depths of depravity it’s possible for living creatures to attain. And we’ve done it because some low-life, petty, pompous, peer or president or politician decreed it.

If the young of today take the time to remember exactly that, every 11th of November, maybe, just maybe, when the politicians of tomorrow sound the fanfare to pack up the kitbags and shoulder the rifles, they’ll be told:

“Piss off and do your own dirty work.”

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6 Replies to “We Will Remember”

  1. I’d love for the world to say “Never Again”.

    But I also do use the Rememberance time to think of the amazing bravery that people had; my grandfather who was a bomb aimer/navigator in a Lancaster bomber during WW2 – he wasn’t twenty when he was risking his life doing what he believed in.

    Or my grandmother’s uncle, who, again, at a very young age, was training new recruits to go out and die in the trenches in WW1. He was teaching them how to throw grenades. One of the recruits, nervous, pulled out the pin, then dropped the grenade. My great-great uncle, knowing they couldn’t get out of the way in time, threw himself onto the grenade, ensuring that, though he died, everyone else survived.

    Though I never knew him, I remember his sacrifice, unsure if I could do the same if I was in his position.

  2. I find it difficult to balance the emotions that flow through 11/11 each year. I’m a pacifist, mainly due to what went on in WW2. The best I can do is be grateful for those who actually fought World War2, they affected me, and my life.

    However much I hate the idea of war, I have to honour people who died on behalf of their countrymen and the world. Whether politicians could have avoided that whole horrendous war is another matter. They didn’t avoid it. Men and women died – so that we, you and I, could live free of Nazi fascism. I cannot criticise anybody, politician or citizen for wanting to keep
    11 November special, in whatever way they choose to do it. Even if they are hypocritical, it is seen to be being honoured – much better than being forgotten.

    For future generations – I guess they’ll have to come to their own conclusions through their own experiences. I hope they’ll take your advice RJ !

  3. I was searching for words like yours, RJA, on 11/11 and couldn’t find them. Thanks for putting them together so well.
    War is an abomination of the first magnitude. For all sides. It seems like we never learn.
    Remembrance Day is like a recruitment poster for more cannon fodder, to my mind.
    How can we honour such disregard for the precious lives of those millions and millions of soldiers?
    The giant corporo-mil-indu complex marches on in glee. Counting their filty lucre.

  4. If you are at all interested (I don’t know how many people here read web comics, but I’m addicted to them!), UserFriendly (a Canadian strip) has been doing a week of Veterans/Rememberance Day strips -http://ars.userfriendly.org/cartoons/?id=20081110
    the Nov 10/11 ones run together (the link goes into Nov 10th), and then the next three, whilst they are part of the same sequence, also stand equally well on their own.

  5. I see nothing wrong with remembrance of the fallen, quite the reverse in fact.

    However, what/who I do despise (so deeply that I doubt many could even come close to comprehending), are all those who have quite simply ‘hijacked’ the honourable wholly honourable act of remembrance and use it to further their own various agendas.

    Also, my opinions of all those who so blatanty seek to bathe in the reflected glories of those they pretend to honour, are equally unpublishable here.

    However, I will never allow those low opinions to serve to ever excuse me from solemnly remembering the sacrifices of the fallen, no matter how futile those sacrifices may or may not have turned out to be.

    For what it’s worth, my paternal grandfather, who I never met, still lies where he fell, at Passchendaele.

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