In a few days the anniversary of the cessation of conflict will be upon us. We wear our plastic poppies, fulfill the duty of gesture and go on with our lives. Some among us will clutch at their favourite lies and pretend that the day is one of honour, when they really mean glory. But there is no glory in the memorial of bloodbath. There is no honour in the mindless "support" of troops when it is a placebo for barren ideology. We hurry about our compartmentalized days while somewhere enlisted men and women do our violent bidding and place their lives at risk.
Once upon a time, sending troops into harm's way meant a grave decision and sacrifice shared. The cost in treasure was met on the home front by rationing, by diligent gardens and recycling drives. The horror of war was once something to avoid at every and all costs until there was no other possible choice for consideration. Now we squat in our obese, spoiled disconnect and bawl like fatted babes at the least inconvenience. Some of our citizenry, and the leaders they follow, bark into the night that we should be mounting the wagons of yet more conflict. Beyond a bit of tattered rhetoric, few of those cheerleaders for mayhem's cause could tell you why we should enter into fresh conflict. Let alone maintain the vanity of our current role as failing occupation force, propping up a shift change for the warlords.
We have become a people that sit back on our upholstered asses while everything that my old man fought for gets slowly worn away and covered in the filth of corruption and betrayal. The greatest generation fought to secure liberty, to defeat injustice and stand against an affront to humanity. Some among us now applaud the abridgement of those liberties so hard won, habeas rights be damned, to hell with common law and the traditions of civil justice. The rule of law is fragile when we as a nation can countenance the torture of a child soldier. We are now the terrorists, made so by our own hand and in the name of the hallowed fear we are told to cling to and by the fear we have sanctioned and sown. There is no salvation in shopping.
My old man, H.J. Stewart spent twenty years in uniform with the sappers, crawling across North Africa with Montgomery, in the belly of a liberty ship on D-Day and witnessing the liberation of the camps. He left the forces after having been held as a political prisoner during the Suez crisis, just another pawn in the cold calculus of geopolitics. All the horrors he saw and experienced, every loss and privation he endured did unspeakable harm to him. His PTSD was never diagnosed or treated and his paranoia and violent breaks with reality did lasting damage to my mother, my sisters and I. War breaks the survivors and the victors and the echoes of that damage carry force long beyond the last report of a rifle.
Today we have leaders with neither balls nor brains, whose soulless and mawkish piety informs the arrogant portrait of themselves marching across the world's stage. They can excuse their own complicity in crimes against humanity, placing our laws, treaties and charters in abeyance as they bleat smeared and tarnished claims that we are somehow still the good guys. We stand in lock step beside nations that practice murder, torture and atrocity as policy. They make excuses for cruelty, privation and collective punishment and these same lying curs will soon point their swinish eyes into cameras and disgrace the cenotaphs with wreathes of dead flowers for the fallen. And with the bloodlust of petty, little men they wield their pens and send your cousins off to fight and suffer and perhaps die. All the while those self same pens will be slashing away at the necessary services that the returning veterans will need. That their spouses, and children will need and lastly they'll use those pens to sign their crimes into secrecy. But hell, what is one more stolen youth, one more child greeting a returning stranger, one more family ground down by the echo of violence brought home.
Our leaders will don their finest and make a show of solemnity and they will do so with lies upon their lips and lies in their bellies. They will speak of honour and glory, of sacrifice and courage. And they will ask us to remember. But they want us to remember something false, something tainted by their own ambition and stupidity. What I will remember are the few conversations I ever had with my father when the walls he had built around himself came down a very little bit. I'll remember him shaking as he talked about witnessing the locks coming off doors of barracks abandoned by the retreating Nazis and the skeletal figures emerging from the stink of where they'd been left to perish. I'll remember the anguish in the face of a man I feared, who I only ever knew as cold and forbidding as he described having to hold these death camp survivors at bayonet point because the arrival of food caused them to riot.
What I will most remember is what remembrance day meant to him. Not a day of glory or celebration but a day to remember the weight of suffering by both victor and vanquished, by soldier and civilian. The lesson of remembrance day is that we must do everything in our our power and persuasion to never permit such waste and such loss to occur again. When we see Stephen Harper or Peter McKay or Brent Rathberger donning the uniform and rank that they have not earned, playing warrior like children pulling cheap tat from Mr Dressup's tickle trunk, we can see them for what they really are. They are small creatures, devoid of shame, with no qualms about defaming the uniform and in so doing demeaning the memory of the fallen.