Sunday 8 November 2020

Nerd Church - Remembering Why We Remember


(Warning: this post discusses war, loss of life, and pandemics/ Coronavirus/Covid 19)

'Remembering Why We Remember' with a background of poppies

In the UK, it's traditional to mark Remembrance Sunday - the Sunday that's nearest the 11th November - and also Remembrance Day, otherwise known as Armistice Day.

This has been tradition since just after the First World War, when literally everyone knew someone who had passed away in service. (World War One was basically 4 years of non-stop slaughter on all sides.)

So, for the last century almost every town and parish in this fair(ish) land has had memorial services for the country's war dead on these days.

A lot of the time these are big affairs with brass bands, local community groups, and the main roads through the town closed off so that those involved don't get run over.

I've been to more than a few of these services - I used to go in Brownies and Guides, and had the honour of laying the wreath on one occasion, and carrying the Brownies flag on another.

So I know what it's like - whether raining, sunny, or just butt-numbingly freezing.

This year? There's a global pandemic.

Which means that all of the remembrance services are either cancelled or massively scaled down. 

As they should be - large gatherings of people are a sure way to spread Covid.

(Incidentally, the last year of World War One, 1918, saw the start of the last global pandemic - it ended in 1920 after infecting a third of the world's population. If we could not let Covid do that, that'd be great.) 

But - and hear me out before you go all knee-jerk reaction on me - maybe it's better this way? least as a break? Like a reset switch. So that we can take a step back and think about it.

I mean, should it really be about the pomp and ceremony?

Sometimes amongst all the 'glory' this and 'proud' that, we forget the most important thing - which is not the 'glory' of war. War is not glorious.

The most important thing is that people have died - again and again - in military service.

Remembrance Sunday should be an opportunity to reflect on the awful, personal, cost of military campaigns - not the so-called 'wins.' 

Nobody wins at war. If you're lucky, you don't lose as bad.

This needs to be a reminder - not just to the public but to the people in charge - that there is a very real cost in war.

It should be an opportunity for those left behind to remember loved ones

 - and to remember the sacrifices made by service personnel who have suffered physically and mentally after leaving the armed forces.

There's a tendency of people to get very nationalistic - and often very exclusionary of diversity - when it comes to the armed forces and Remembrance Sunday. Despite the fact that diverse groups of people have always served.

If we aren't willing to stand for equality and love and life - then why are we willing to let people die, over and over again?

The dead are dead. 

And yes, what they did - more importantly, who they were - should be remembered.

But to fail to make things better for those who are still with us - to make a better world for everyone - is to do a disservice to those who sacrificed.

To hold services this year, and spread the Coronavirus further and be the cause of so many deaths, would be more than disrespectful. It would be throwing away that sacrifice.

So I think it's important, this year, to remember why we remember - to honour the sacrifices of those people, not to ignore those sacrifices. 

And it's important that we do so at home, and stay safe.

The move to online commemorations gives us the opportunity to take stock of exactly what it is we're remembering every year - because if we're just going through the motions, then what's the point?

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  1. I loved this post, Cee! Obviously here in Canada we recognize Remembrance Day as well. But lately it has become, like you said, a trend for people to promote nationalism, while being racist. These people forget that the soldiers that fought in the world wars were fighting against facisim, against racism. So promoting a racist rhetoric is going against the soldiers that these nationalists claim to support.

    1. There was a period here a few years ago where the far-right group Britain First was hijacking the poppy symbol. Luckily, that's ebbed away over recent years, but it always disappoints and angers me when people use Remembrance Day as a smoke-screen for bigotry - like, honestly, how *dare* they?! *sighs*


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