Remembrance Day is a difficult day for many. This is a great understatement for parents, families, spouses and partners who have lost loved ones due to war. On this day, many of us watch on television, as wreaths are laid down to commemorate the memory of those who fought and paid the ultimate price for our freedom.
As the years go by, there are fewer and fewer veterans around who are able to bear witness to the horrors and atrocities of war. One is lead to believe that it is a dwindling club, and that we are getting an opportunity to honour them for their service in helping to grant us our freedom.
However, there is another group of veterans, soldiers from “campaigns” or wars of the not too distant past, in places like Afghanistan. The second world war, or the second great war, as some like to call it, was supposed to be the war to end ALL wars!
This was a fantasy that lasted for a brief few years, before our sense of patriotism and valour were again called upon to go fight in the Korean war.
And after the Korean war, then came the Vietnam war. That was a great debacle, and it seems that the powers that be took some time to lick their wounds, and reconsider the right way to fight a war so as to be able to win it. For some time, it almost seemed that the decision to go to war carried too high a price.
Unfortunately, the opportunity to flex one’s military might or desire to fight never seems to be far off, and the western world was given an opportunity to free Kuwait from the ravages of the Iraqi regime. Although rumours and certain pictures would suggest that the Iraqis may have at a certain point been allies, these things seem to turn quickly on the world stage it appears.
As a swift victory in Iraq led to the renewed sense of it being possible to find victory in war, it seems that our leaders began to cast their eyes towards other places where victory in war might be possible.
Victory in the Persian Gulf, let’s call it PG1, led to another war and invasion this time called PG2. Meanwhile forces were also fighting in Afghanistan to bring more freedom to that area of the world.
The leaders in the west were quickly beginning to become aware that with the right coalition and the right amount of technology, just about any small country could be invaded and defeated by a bunch of other much larger better equipped countries.
And somewhere along in here, it is probably worth making a reference that quite a few of these places that needed liberating also seemed to have vast reserves of petroleum. While there were also other places in the world that were fighting and maybe needed help finding their freedom and liberation (e.g. Africa), it was unfortunate for them that they did not possess vast amounts of petroleum reserves.
The “idea” of the war to end all wars seems like a distant memory in this day and age. In fact, we seem to have gotten very good at going to war just about anywhere to defend just about anything.
We seem to have wholeheartedly endorsed the notion that it is okay to send one’s troops or military, or to bomb someone else’s country just because they are not living according to our chosen values and way of life.
There is something deeply wrong and disturbing about this. And the sad part is that we all seem to accept it happening every day as we sit and watch the news.
If a neighbour came into our yard and cut down our apple tree because they thought we should have a cherry tree instead, we would be outraged. And yet, on a national level, we seem to think nothing of nation states violating the territory and right to self-rule of other nation states because they think they have a better way.
Once again, there is something deeply wrong here.
A Double Standard Perhaps?
A person that thinks they can take things that do not belong to them, would be called a thief at best, and perhaps even anti-social or sociopathic at worst.
A nation who would do this?
Some call it war. No matter what you call it, or how many flags you wrap it up in, killing is killing.
It is interesting to note how police respond to gang “wars”. Officers are sent out, and the members of said gangs are often arrested and put on trial, and then if convicted, face possible jail terms.
But if you happen to be a country, and you decide that you want to engage in “war”, then all you have to do it seems, is to have the leader of your country make a declaration of war, and have the people’s representatives vote for it as well, and then you are well on your way to sending your troops and weapons off to some distant land to engage in some “war” of your own.
No being rounded up, no getting arrested, no going to court, no jail time.
It’s all very legal you see. Our representatives “voted” for it after all!
The Problem With War
The problem with war, and there are many. But I think this quote sums it up best:
All war represents a failure of diplomacy – Tony Benn
The greatest tragedy of war, are all the fathers, brothers, mothers and sisters, and children, let us not forget civilian casualties, who died because certain Kings or Queens, or politicians could not get along, or decided to take by force what did not belong to them.
Even greater than that, is that the retelling of human history appears to be nothing other than a recounting of one long list, of one war after another.
Is this the type of “human history” that we would have our children learn in school?
Surely as a species we can do better than this?
What Are We Remembering?
Each and every Remembrance Day, my heart goes out to the families, to the mothers and fathers, and to the people who have lost loved ones on some distant brutal battle field.
I can’t help but feel what a terrible tragic loss it all amounts to.
So many young lives cut short after enlisting to go and fight for some cause that they believed in. Many paying with their lives.
What is it about we humans as a species, that we so often resort to violence as a means to resolve our differences?
The sad part about it is, that it is not just wars. One can turn on one’s TV any night of the week, and it won’t be very difficult to find some show where one of the actor’s resorts to violence to get their way.
And this we call… Entertainment?
When did violence and killing become entertainment? Is this not a severe lack of imagination and creativity on the part of those making up these shows? Or far worse, is this an accurate depiction of our deep shadow nature needing expression?
Video games, sadly I must say, that it can be very difficult to find one that does not involve some great degree of violence. What is it that we are telling our children about how to amuse themselves?
That if you can’t get your way, or somebody is in the way, then it is okay to use violence to get what you want? And then we wonder and are perplexed when children act out when they don’t get their way, or they won’t listen. But before we are too hasty to judge, let us adults look at the shows and movies that we seek to “entertain” ourselves with. Are we doing much better ourselves?
As each passing year goes by, it seems that TV and movie producers keep finding better and gorier ways to “entertain” us and make money for themselves.
One can only hope that as a people, we are growing tired of all of this violence that gets paraded to us on television shows, movies and even the news.
And then some of us wonder why we have difficulty sleeping, after watching about 4 or 5 hours of violent programming before bed???
The Commonality Of Modern Wars
One thing that I noticed that seems to be common in nearly all, actually let’s go with ALL modern wars, is that one would be hard pressed to find the name of some elderly person and likely NO politicians among the names of those war dead that are being remembered.
War appears to be a gesture manufactured and trumpeted by older men, mostly politicians, that seeks to enlist the services and lives of much younger men in order to fight for some ideal.
When Wars Will End
One possible solution to end wars, would be to require those voting for and insisting on going to war, that they be in the front of the ranks.
Perhaps if one were so exposed and vulnerable to the ravages and horrible consequences of war, then maybe one would think twice and maybe three times about whether they thought it was really a good idea to go to war.
These same politicians might head back to the negotiation table and see if they couldn’t perhaps find a better way, some sort of compromise, and perhaps the all elusive peaceful arrangement, a live and let live, a respect oneself and others approach that could eventually lead to our re-writing how we tell the history of our species.
When we disagree… we sit down and talk about it.
How’s that for a video game or movie? Poor ratings for sure!
We’d probably much rather take a walk in the fresh air, than be bored to death by watching two people sit and talk at a table.
Maybe it’s time to give peace a chance? There’s been far too many tears, and too many young lives lost for one cause or another.
After thousands of years of war, a little boredom might do our species some good!
Helen Keller, that fountain of inspiration, brought these two blessed concepts together so beautifully in the above quote.
Or perhaps, another more humorous way of looking at it might be:
But Is This Just A Bunch Of Pollyannaism?
Surely just thinking and believing that things will work out for the best is nothing more then short-sighted naivete?
Is it really?
Perhaps one of the things that motivates us to get out of bed in the morning is the belief that today is a new day.
That the new day brings a new world of possibilities.
Certainly today in Canada, seems to be one of those days.
With a new government being sworn in, the air is filled with optimism andhope. A feeling that we have turned the corner. That things can and hopefully will be different.
But if that is to be true on a national level, it will take more than just words and election victories.
It will take action.
The good news is that the new government seems to remember its campaign promises, and seems eager to put them into place. Time will tell, if this does in fact occur.
But the mood appears to be bright in the country. The citizens appear to be willing to give the incoming government the benefit of the doubt, and hopefully a chance to prove themselves.
The stakes are high. Promises made must be honoured, otherwise the trust and faith that has been placed in the new government will wither and fade. And that would likely lead to pessimism and discouragement, and quite possibly betrayal.
Time will tell. It always does.
But What About The Rest Of Us?
We as individuals have not won a federal election. Some of us may have voted for the party that won, and others not.
Perhaps what is important, now and at all times in our lives is:
What do we believe about the nature of the world, our place in it, and our power to change our own personal world?
In essence, what we are talking about is our sense of: Personal Power
Right now a lot of people in this country are feeling empowered. Possibly because they feel that they might actually have a government that may be willing to listen to them, consider their opinions, but also take action on matters that are important to them.
We Have An Opportunity
Right now there is a great opportunity to take this sense of optimism and hope that we are feeling, and to channel it into our lives.
It is an opportunity to take the time to make an assessment of our lives to date. To see how far we have come, to see where we are, and more importantly to chart a course for where we would like to go.
Right now, we might feel like we have a favourable government tone in our nation’s capital. This may change, and it may change quickly. Governments seem to be only as popular and effective, as their handling of the latest scandal or critical issue.
This is an opportunity to set a course for ourselves, for our relationships, for our families, and organizations. An opportunity to be buffeted by this spirit of optimism, and to set a course into the wind.
There will be many challenges. Of that we can be sure. We need only look to history to verify this for ourselves.
But as we look around the world. There is much to be thankful for in this great country that we call Canada.
Personally, after returning from vacation overseas, I am immensely grateful and thankful to be a Canadian citizen. But we face many challenges as a nation. Our reputation in the world has been tarnished. We are no longer the world leaders that we were.
But there is hope. And there is optimism in the air.
This country can be what it once was. A place that the world looked to for a model of inclusion and compassion. A place of global leadership, inspiration and peace. We are getting back onto the road that we once traveled. And there will be bumps along the way. But I for one, wouldn’t want to be doing it in any other country in the world.
Through The Counselling Door
Bringing things closer to home. It is this same sense of optimism and hope, that I see and listen to everyday when I am with a client.
No matter how much pain and despair that a person may be feeling. There is something deep inside of them, a fire that burns, that believes that things can be different!
And it is I believe, that fire of optimism and hope that fuels each and every one of us to try. To pick ourselves up after pain. To not stop. To hopefully be able to see how we have been hurting ourselves, or have been hurt. And to wish for something different.
To do something different, and to get different results!
On this day, we are full of optimism and hope. Let us all remember this day when the going gets tough. Because it will. But it is in overcoming difficult moments, that we are all brought closer together. It is what unites us.
Let the spirit of optimism and hope burn bright within you. And never stop believing that things can be different. We can all be living proof, each and every day.