Monday, November 10, 2014

Writing - Remembrance Day

Writing - Remembrance Day

Forgive the late night ramblings of madmen.  Namely I.

Our house is quiet right now, half the household is out, working or partying, doing what they do I suppose.  I worked a full 10 hours today, then came home, ate some food and hung out with friends over the internet to play some games.

Tomorrow, I am waking up early with some of my compatriots, going down to Victory Square in the chilly November air and paying our respects.  We're going to wake up early, I'm probably going to shower and shave three weeks growth of beard off.  Don some nice clothing, and stand in the quiet of a tuesday morning while we listen to song, and poem, and the Last Post.

I have never served in a war.  Knowing my disposition, and my slight disdain for authority it's probably for the best.  But I've written two wartime plays, made one war-related video game, participated in seven World War 1, or World War 2 plays/operas, and directed a holocaust play myself.  I am intimately familiar with the details that surround armed conflict as human history has unfolded.  I know the tremendous cost that is shouldered by soldiers everywhere, for various reasons for their countries.

I am not a particular supporter of war, and although in the general scheme of things, probably a little more than the average in propensity for violence, I would prefer us find peaceful resolutions to conflict than force.  That said, I have tremendous respect for the generations that have come prior to mine that did not have that choice.  They took up arms, perhaps in many cases without knowing why.  In many cases, they took up arms, around the world because otherwise, civilians, brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers would have borne the cost.

There are 2043 Canadians buried at Beny-sur-Mer.  They are a fraction of the 45 thousand Canadians who gave their life in World War 2.  They again, are a fraction, of the 22-30 million military deaths that happened during World War 2.  And again, they are a fraction of the 80 million that died over those six years.  Those 80 million people.  Civilians, soldiers, staff.  Men and women.  Children.  4% of the world died, in six years.

That's not counting all the other wars.  That's not counting the wars that grip our world today.  That's not counting the fall of bombs, or the play of machine guns or the war we wage in the hearts and minds of one another for human decency.  That's not counting the repercussions of our wars, the torn apart farm land, the breaking of families and the burning of culture.  That's not counting the fall of two bombs that changed the world entire when they wiped out entire cities.  That's not counting the six million people who were persecuted for the language they spoke and the symbol they knelt before.  That's not counting the people that died because they wrote with different characters, or were the right or wrong gender, or orientation, or skin color, or age.

I know that my generation is a troubled one.  It is deeply apparent everywhere you look.  We lack a clarity of action, and our changing social order, and cultural realities have become deeply conflicted with what we know or once thought of.  We have grown up into a strange world where our boundaries are both falling apart everywhere we look, but also rise higher and more insurmountable than ever.  We are told we should want money and stability, and many of us never find it.  We yearn for material things to find satisfaction, and discover that they are ephemerally fleeting.

But we remember.

I had a conversation this evening with a friend.  She asked me why I would bother getting up early tomorrow, to stand in the cold.  That she intended fully to sleep in and enjoy the day off.  I said nothing then.  I understood, and perhaps in some small way I also wanted to do that.  But I will not.  In the morning I will wake at first light, dress appropriately and do my proper duty.  Because for all the insanity of the world around me, and the deeply troubling times we live in...I also owe a tremendous amount to those people whose names etch weathered rock for the last seventy years.

I wake up and make video games.  I have the freedom to eat what I want, say what I will, and create and make art.  I listen to whatever music I want, I watch whatever television or movies, read whatever books.  I have the freedom after a long day of work to put pen to paper and my thoughts are my own, and their diction and direction bend to my will.  Two days a week, my friends and I gather freely, sometimes in large groups, we carouse, and listen to music, and laugh and share and have joy in our lives. 

I understand, that she doesn't care.  I understand that statistically, many Canadians, and many people around the world do not care.  For what use have the dead and passed on for our duty, our solemnity, our poems and prayers and words.  For what use will the dead have for this, these handful of ones and zeroes stored somewhere in California or Texas on a little silver platter.

But we remember.

There is a heavy burden of our world changes and we grow ever disparate from one another...that we must remember what has transpired before.  That we as artists, as intellectuals, as writers, and researchers, and as good and honest people must remember, and safeguard the happenings.  Our obligation in lieu of some strange 'glorious' war, is to ensure it never happens again.  That there will be no more tyrants, that we might do our best to scrub clean the hatred, and extend the hand where once the sword was held.  We remember that we will never forget, and us and ours, the children that come after us will always remember that they lead a precious and enchanted life because we must all do our duty to remember.  The world is a terrible place right now, but how much worse would it be for our forgetting.

So tomorrow I shall stand in the cold, shoulder to shoulder with others.  And I know that there will be many the people who have cell phone cameras taking pictures, acting the tourist.  People who don't sing the anthem or keep the silence, or know why planes fly overhead, or talk during The Last Post.  And there will be someone eating food during the commemoration, and there will be dozens who leave early before the wreathes are lain at the foot of the monument. 

But I will remember, and in so remembering, know that they have the freedom to do these things because of the sacrifice of others so long ago, and now today.  And there are many like us who keep that vigil.  It is our burden, and in some ways, all the more precious than the firing of a gun.

We Remember.

And row on row did I see the red,
of poppies there, lain out amongst the green.
Where brothers fell, and silence lay
Each one a marker, of the blood spilled fresh.

I heard them then, those laughing voices.
Of each gent or lady, in happier times.
Their faces in the sunlight turned, and beckoned me
A hand oustretched, bade me join in their jest.

But there I shook my head but slow.
I knelt quite low, and honored them.
But knew in truth, that my duty was not yet met.