Thursday, November 11, 2010

Peace and Remembrance and the White Poppy

My daughter came home from school and asked "what does peace mean for you?" I think I told her "when you and your brother get along."
What a tough question., though. I took this as a Remembrance Day question, so that helps me frame the ideas I have.

War is hell. The veteran that spoke at my school's RD ceremony reminded us of this, the dead, the devastation. There is some glory in war, honour in service and sacrifice, but I think few would agree that war is the best way to solve problems. I think wars are an easy way out for countries who have alternatives, and I think that wars usually create more problems than they resolve. We tend to remember WWI and WWII in RD, maybe Korea and Afghanistan, and we emphasize the defense of freedom and the sacrifice of lives. WWI in particular, the origin of our Nov.11th pause, features prominently. I understand the need to remember -- as a Socials teacher most of what I do is remember -- but I think we often forget the other important stuff, like why WWI took place and what it accomplished. We need to confront the ugly past, even when the cause and consequence don't support the glorious view we take of our history. We also focus on "our wars" and are hesitant to make the connections to Rwanda, the Congo, Pakistan, etc.

Red poppy, white poppy, green or black, I think we need to invest more thought and meaning into the symbol rather than being so symbolic with our meanings. I don't think a white poppy is disrespectful, I think it is an attempt to tell a more inclusive and historically relevant story about what is important to remember. We owe it to the war dead to find ways of solving problems without resorting to war. That would be the ultimate respect born out of remembrance.

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