Today in Canada, as well as in many other countries around the world, we celebrate the end of World War I and remember those soldiers who gave their lives serving their countries. In Canada, we wear a poppy to show our respect for those who have fallen; the Royal Canadian Legion makes them available in return for small donations. It is of course associated with the Remembrance Day poem "In Flanders Fields" by Canadian soldier John McCrae, who served in World War I.
World War I was known then as "the war to end all wars." Yeah ... uh, that didn't really work very well, did it? In fact, sometimes it feels like we have even more strife than ever. We learn about the two World Wars in school, study their causes and their aftermaths, but do we really learn from these wars? Do we take to heart their morals and stay firm in our resolve to never again lead the world over that terrible precipice? Sometimes, I have my doubts.
I'm not very into nationalism. I'm proud of my country and proud to be Canadian, sure. But I have no intention of serving in our armed forces, and if we had conscription again, I'd be a conscientious objector. Nationalism can be dangerous, as World Wars I and II demonstrated.
Yet even though I do not agree with military actions, I respect those men and women who put their lives on the line to serve. They are standing up and fighting--literally--for what they think is right. They demonstrate their courage, conviction, and desire to see change. Can you say the same? How many of us have blogs, talk about change, but don't actually do anything about it? For this reason, if for none other, soldiers deserve respect and admiration. And that is the soldier that should be celebrated, not the gun-toting action heroes we so often see in movies.
I learned today, listening to the CBC radio coverage of the 11:00 ceremony at the National War Memorial, that there is only one Canadian veteran of World War I who remains alive. He didn't actually see combat, and he has lived in the United States since 1920. We even share the same last name, although we are not, to my knowledge, related. John Babcock is 108 years old. Ninety years ago, when the armistice was signed, he was serving in the Canadian corps at 18 years of age.
Which brings us to now. The present. World War I had a tremendous effect on development of the entire twentieth century. It ended only ninety years ago--a brief time considering the entire span of the history of human civilization, but a lifetime for a single human being. Soon, all those who lived during the war will be gone, and all we'll have are our memories of them, as well as whatever testimonies we could record. We owe it to them to never forget their legacy. We owe it to ourselves to never forget, to learn from our past, and to strive to improve the world.