“Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.”
— George Santayana
Remembrance Day is a time not to celebrate war, but our desire for peace, to remember never to repeat those horrors war has brought, especially the two world wars of the 20th Century.
It hasn’t worked, though it is a testament to the spirit of humanity that we meet in company every year, a bright spot in the fight against darkness.
It’s been a century since the end of the First World War and more than six decades since the end of the second, but in the intervening years, the world has rarely been without conflict, including genocides mirroring the Nazi Holocaust: Somalia, Rwanda, Sri Lanka and the ongoing slow genocide of the Rohingya in Myanmar, to name just a few of the more famous horrors humans have committed on fellow human beings.
It’s easy to say these are far away, in “third-world countries” not here. But the populism that is driving modern politics, in the US, in Europe, in Brazil, and yes, in Canada, draws on the same methods — the racist rhetoric, the lies, the division, the “us versus them” — that were employed by Hitler, Mussolini, the Khmer Rouge and others in their drive for power.
Rather than remembering the past, we are beginning to repeat it.
We pause at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11 to remember the brave Canadians, men and women, who gave their lives to prevent just this kind of evil from spreading, to enforce the peace, trying and failing to prevent atrocities like Rwanda from happening.
You only need to glance at headlines for evidence that a state-fostered climate of hatred, fear and racism is a serious threat.
After you pause to remember our fallen, take another moment to remember that we, too, have a responsibility to continue that struggle against hatred and fear. We are the soldiers in this ongoing war.
“Take up our quarrel with the foe: to you from failing hands we throw the torch; be yours to hold it high.”