Thursday, November 11, 2010

Lest we remember

My father was a WWII vet, having led the 1st Canadian Calibration Troop through the mud of Europe. A cousin was imprisoned in Buchenwald after being captured behind enemy lines. My ex-spouse's father was a Hong Kong POW, and, like his comrades, was shamefully abandoned by the Canadian government during his captivity and after his release.

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it," said George Santayana.


Remembering dooms us to repetition. We remember everything and learn nothing. We absorb and reproduce the patterns of the past. Look around.

We are losing men and women in Afghanistan, because war is still the answer. We glorify (and profit by) the production of weapons of war.

We fret about the allegedly devious aliens among us. Once it was Japanese, Germans and Italians, now it's Muslims.

We fearfully close our borders. A few decades ago it was to keep out Jews, now it's Tamils, whose mass murder at sea was recently advocated ("lock and load") by a leading Canadian newspaper.

Our vets are fighting tooth and nail for decent treatment from our "Support Our Troops" government: t
he disgracefully abandoned Hong Kong vets had to fight for their pensions too.

We're condemned to repeat history, over and over and over again--unless we forget.

I'm not advocating that we dismiss the sacrifices made to turn back fascism, or disrespect the countless men and women killed or wounded in that essential task. But in this annual attempt to confer immortality upon those and other brave young people--"They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old"--we are also immortalizing old ways of thinking and acting, closing off the possibility of alternatives.

We are trapped in remembrance. We must have a radical break with the past, a strategic obliteration. Because only a deliberate act of forgetting will allow us to dream the wild new dreams that may yet save us.


Jay Currie said...

Which would be why the vets wear their medals to the ceremony.

MacKenna said...

Cue the funny music and commence the fish slapping.

I give him an A for the Victorian language and notions that have no basis in actual reality.

P.S. I'm the daughter of an airforce major who flew bombing missions during WWII. He would be the first in line to slap this idiot with a wet trout.

Boris said...

I've had the idea for a while now of doing a discourse and content analysis of a sample of official speeches and media coverage of Remembrance Day since it began. I think you'd see changes you mention.

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