I think I can safely say that everyone has been, in some way, affected by war. Whether it be the devastation of the World Wars, or the terrifying presence of Afghanistan and Iraq. There is not a family in the world, it seems, that has not known war and loss and fear.
On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, the guns went silent. The armistice of World War I has since become a symbol of every war, of every injury and death that has come because of cruelty and evil. Poppies have become the universal symbol for Remembrance Day. These blood-red flowers bloomed in several fields in Flanders during and after the Great War, as commemorated in the poem In Flanders Fields.
I wear my poppy with pride – the green leaf pointing at the 11 o’clock point in remembrance – because I know what was lost to give people their freedom.
I could wax lyrical about it – I could spout clichés, one after the other, to try and explain the importance of Remembrance Day. I’m sure that everyone has heard someone say something about it already today. Millions of people have observed two minutes of silence. So, what is the point of reading yet another blog about it?
Well, because people forget that war is everywhere, and we are becoming numb to it. How many of you mindlessly shoot people in war video games? Watch films about war and death? Before you get indignant, I have absolutely nothing against this – I believe in freedom of speech, opinion and your choice of films/video games/books and everything in between. No, I don’t think listening to Marilyn Manson makes you commit mass murder, and I don’t think violent video games have that much to do with the “troublesome youth”… I think the problem is much wider than that.
What I am saying, is how often do you read/watch/listen to a war story, and feel nothing? It is not a relative, a friend, someone who means something to you – you are detached. And I think that every time you read/watch/listen to something about war, I think you should feel that loss. I think you should remember those who do feel that very real pain everyday.
In my third year of university, I wrote the beginnings of a novel about a group of friends, and one of whom dies of cancer. The story begins after the death, and looks at grieving. But throughout it all, I couldn’t feel the loss of my character. Which is why it never worked.
Next time you read/watch/listen to something about death – imagine that death is a friend, a relative, your favourite pet if you wish. But feel that pain. Feel that loss.
This year was the first year that Remembrance Day was held without a World War I veteran. How do we stop it becoming just another part of history, another story to tell? Because we remember.
Lest We Forget.
Everyone knows those words. So why just remember the World Wars, why just remember Vietnam, Iraq, the Falklands? Why not remember every death that came before its time? Why not honour those who have fought for freedom – from the soldiers to Martin Luther King, to the mother who took the beating so her child didn’t have to, to the man who protected his family and property from people who meant harm.
Today I wrote about loss, not because I was feeling morbid, but because I was feeling proud that I could call myself a free person; free to write about the things I thought of, free to walk the street with my hair colour, with my opinions.
Today, my novel got no further. Because I was free to decide it didn’t have to. Today, I wrote about the death of one of my characters because I was free to do so. I have a grandfather who was in the forces for most of his life, a great uncle who landed on D-Day and another who was invalided out for being kicked by a mule. My family were lucky. How many others can say the same?
We are free because people take that burden of pain and loss, because they believed in the right to freedom. Why should some people be numb to it, when others spend their lives grieving? Today, even if it is just today, share that pain, and wear it with pride. Because that pain means you are standing there, right now, exactly who you are and no one else.
“Freedom is never free.” -Author Unknown