Wednesday, November 11, 2009

November 11 - the holiday I wish weren't

November 11th is a very bittersweet holiday. Everyone enjoys a day off - a day free of commitments. (Although the status of Remembrance Day being a stat holiday varies across the country, and even within the same cities.)

Remembrance Day always makes me a bit sad. It makes me sad that we need to have this holiday. That we needed to send people young and old, male and female, English and French (and other), off to a foreign land to protect us, and protect citizens of other countries. That being said, it is also amazing that we have the freedom to honour them on this day. The fact that we can have Remembrance Day is a testament of their mission being successful, and them protecting our country's ability to be.

I went to a museum over the weekend past about the occupation in France during WWII, and the resistance movement. Today was a holiday in France, specifically for WWI (apparently there are separate holidays for other wars?). Had D-Day been unsuccessful in France in 1944, and any subsequent attempt to rid France of the Germans, le 11 novembre, comme jour ferie (accents on the e's - holiday) would not exist. Were the Nazis still in rule of this country, the French would not be celebrating their invalides aujourd'hui.

Were Canada to participate in a war today, on the same large scale effort of WWI or WWII, I honestly can't say I would enlist. I am not brave enough to potentially sacrifice myself for the good of my country. I cannot even begin to imagine what that life would be like. I've read the history, heard the stories, have seen the footage, but I cannot envision myself in uniform, boarding a boat or plane, being sent to fight a battle. To put myself in a dangerous situation. I think I could help in other ways, but I'm much too much of a baby to ever be found on the front lines. I'm happy to have citizenship in a country where military service is not mandatory, and where conscription is a thought almost a century old (believe it was last enforced during WWI?).

I focus somewhat on WWII, as it's the war I know the most about, and I believe we are taught more about it in school due to the ancestry of many Islanders. For me, this war seems a lifetime ago - well before my time. But to put it in perspective, this war ended only ten years before my father was born. There are still many people alive who can give first-hand accounts of their involvement. There are statues in London that still have slight signs of damage from the blitz. The Berlin Wall, a result of the, well, result of WWII fell only ten years ago this week.

There is the remains of a Concentration Camp within a very easy bike ride from my home. Actually, I can't quite figure out if it was a concentration camp, or a "holding bin" of sorts. Prior to German occupation of France, the French held Germans and Austrians there. This changed when 1940 hit (German occupation of Northern France and the Atlantic coast), and then again in 1942 as Germany moved into the free region of France (generally, the south). Jewish residents and others were collected and put at this camp. They were then transferred to Auschwitz, via Camps Drancy and Rivesaults.

Remembrance Day is not only about the great wars (WWI, WWII). I believe the focus tends to fall on them, but there were wars elsewhere, and there are still wars now. There are peace keeping missions, and there are the battles in which we will fight in the future.

Poppies are not worn in France, so I had no poppy to wear today. But I would wear my poppy to thank, remember, love and respect those who served in the past, who are serving now, and who will serve in the future.

A picture I took in Ypres, Belgium, editted, of a war graveyard. I suppose it will be my virtual poppy this year.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Jenn, this is a very fine dedication to all those who enable us to live in a free world.
So proud of you to think as you do and admire your ability to express it in words.
(Eagerly await your first published works)