By ANDREW SOULSBY
In 1897, Rudyard Kipling, an English poet who won the Nobel Prize in 1907 for literature, wrote a poem titled Recessional where the phrase “Lest We Forget” was first penned. It was written for Queen Victoria’s 60th year in power, a time when English imperialism was at the brink of a steady decline in the decades to come. The words were meant as a warning, of the perils of hubris and the inevitable decline of imperial power.
Today, however, Lest We Forget refers to the names and memories of soldiers who fought and died during war. It refers to the sacrifices and hardships made by the people back home while their sons, brothers and fathers fought overseas. It refers to the atrocities and tragedies witnessed by men who returned home, shells of their former selves. It’s a phrase we see in headlines and news stories for nearly a week for one month of the year.
Remembrance Day was established in 1919 by King George V as a way to show gratitude to those who died in The Great War. The tradition continued and spread throughout the Commonwealth as the world plunged into another global conflict only 20 years later.
Now, in 2011, we remember not only those who died in the First and Second World Wars, but also the Korean War, the many peacekeeping missions Canada has led and participated in and most recently, the Afghan conflict.
We are supposedly taught history in order to stop it from repeating itself. Remembrance Day can be said to have the same goals, however, as history clearly shows, we are doing a miserable job of it.
Nearly 114 years later, Kipling’s words appear to be falling on deaf ears.
As Nov. 11 passes, poppies that once adorned shirts and coats fall to the ground and are forgotten once more until another year passes and we all stand in silence, staring blankly at our feet. It’s during these 365 days that policies are made by governments we feel further disconnected from and begrudgingly elect, that enable our armed forces to travel overseas and bomb places we’ve never seen or can even find on a map. All paid for with our tax dollars.
Next time you find yourself staring blankly at your feet as the 11th hour, of the 11th day, on the 11th month comes and goes, reflect not only on the soldiers who so bravely gave their lives enforcing seldom understood foreign policies, but also ask yourself what you can do to prevent further bloodshed of our countrymen and women.
The views herein represent the position of the newspaper, not necessarily the author.