Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Future of Our Past

First I would like to thank everyone for the positive feedback on my piece on feminism last week. I heard back from a lot of people who do not normally comment on my blog, and virtually all that feedback was positive. Negative feedback seemed to come from those more inclined to spam their own point of view and may not have even ready my piece. I hope to write pieces like that again in the future.

Given that today is Remembrance Day I want to take a moment to reflect on the future of this civic holiday. For decades now Canadians have marked the end of World War I, that bloody and damaging conflict. Canada emerged a quite different country than the one that entered. I believe that we scarcely understand the social, cultural and mental trauma that war had on the countries involved.

To great extent while our public consciousness for World War I has faded dramatically it still is at the core of Remembrance Day. For many reasons the Second World War has eclipsed the First World War and it did so remarkably early on. Remembrance Day has principally been built upon these two wars. The Korean War (1950-1953) was called the Forgotten War in its time and its comparative impact is so much smaller. The various missions Canada has participated in are abstract and intangible.

We live, almost, in a post-war era. Canada may not go to war with a nation-state as it did in the world wars again. Our enemies are diffuse and are just as likely now to kill a soldier in Canada as one in a warzone in a distant land. The wars of the early twentieth century drew the nation’s resources to the singular purpose in a war of survival and no other conflicts have replicated those stakes. Wars of the twenty-first century are entirely different creatures and look very little like our past.

But as time marches on and our veterans pass on the glories of the early part of the last century fade from memory, to story, to history, to intangible. How will Canadians speak of World War I fifty years from now? Or the Korean War? I believe World War II will always capture popular imagination, but those other conflicts will fade, like the Boer War or the War of 1812. Today at the Remembrance Day ceremony the Reverend referenced 2014 for being the bicentennial of the last year Canada was invaded and the centennial of the beginning of World War I. It struck me in that moment that both of those facts are relics of history and connect less and less to anyone alive today.

I am forced to wonder what this holiday will mean to future Canadians. How will they feel connected to servicemen and women and our shared past? How will they remember?

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