Once again, Remembrance Day (for Canadians), or Veteran’s Day (for Americans) is here. For Canadians, the interpretation tends to be dedicated to the recognition of the past sacrifices of soldiers lost on foreign soil. Without their sacrifice, we way may well have found ourselves living under the descendants of one Adolf Hitler or Joseph Stalin.
How much of a threat either of these realities coming to fruition really could be debated. Much of the social conditioning of Canadian and American society enshrines this reality as pure fact. Contrary to this, comedians such as George Carlin remind us that history books are always written by the victors. Whilst the ambiguity of reality no doubt exists somewhere between the prideful propaganda of the state and the distrustful contrarianism of the well-read comedian, collective societies of both Canada and the US have been losing any sense of understanding the values represented by November 11th for a long time.
I do hear people worried about the lack of respect in regard to Remembrance Day. I hear disdain at the notion of retail stores setting up and making available Holiday items and displays before November 12th. A few stores even play up this silliness for social positivity points, putting signage on their empty holiday displays telling customers that it is out of respect for those lost. Lest we forget as a sales tool.
Then there are the poppies. Though I am not really against the notion of wearing poppies (and agree with the goals of the poppy funds as administered around Canada, assuming all is above board), the part that annoys me is the theatrical aspect of the whole affair. Between around late October and the 11th of November, rare is a Canadian Television host of any job description to be found not wearing one. Whether they are delivering fashion tips, celebrity news, or local news, the poppy seems to become a required staple of the wardrobe. Because heaven forbid even the hint of a lack of respect by way of lack of a poppy ever pop into any viewer’s mind as they mindlessly consume the day’s details.
All of this leads up to the events that shall commence nationwide in around 8 or 9 hours from now. The memorials.
Some will see the bagpipes play and hear the rehearsed speeches live at venues all over the nation. More still will watch the national ceremony in Ottawa (or a local ceremony to them) on television or online. After this, the businesses will reopen (or return to full-service functionality) at 1:30, and life will be back to normal for the next 364 days.
I don’t have an issue with people (television personalities or otherwise) wearing poppies. I don’t have an issue with people attending gatherings honouring those whom they feel made the ultimate sacrifice. I don’t care what harmless rituals you choose to engage in. The bothersome part for me starts when the pageantry of the entire affair BECOMES the point.
That Remembrance Day has evolved into an elaborate display of symbolism with a dash of capitalist cynicism isn’t really surprising. Like every other supposedly sacred holiday that people decry the loss of meaning in, this interaction is a product of our time. When the whole of connected societies are slowly becoming more and more commercialized in ways never thought to be possible previously, the influence will be felt everywhere. When nothing matters because all you are is either a product or a target demographic, it’s easy to adapt to just going through the motions.
Loonie in, Poppy on. Hat off. Out the door, off to the supermarket to start holiday preparations.
While people are hyper-focused on the sacrifices of their long-lost friends and relatives for 2 weeks out of the year, the real threat to these values can be found in the OTHER 46 weeks out of the year. The times when your online feeds and local news headline stories of increasing unrest and growing fascism in the supposedly free lands of the western world. While these developments are very obvious in the context of the United States at the moment, no liberal democracy is immune from this growing scourge to all that is decent and civilized.
And as growing climatic instability and financial inequality continue to create refugees on all scales from the local to the international, these voices of unrest will only become more prominent. Bringing with them even more fascist turmoil.
People don’t often like the “Look what happened in Germany!” argument made by worried leftists in an increasingly uncertain world. Which is fine, since I’m not really talking to those people.
This is more aimed at, the people dismayed at Christmas retail starting on November 1st. The people who write letters to the editor about their neighbour’s Christmas lights on November 5th. The people who praise retailers for not putting up holiday displays before November 11th out of respect.
By all means, respect. But also pay attention.
Politics isn’t nearly as easy to digest or easy to participate in as the pageantry and symbolism of respect. However, it affects us all. And keeping an eye on the changing and increasingly extreme-leaning political landscape of our nation does far more in the service of remaining true to the sacrifices of all those lost in the fog of war than wearing a poppy for 2 weeks out of a year ever will.