We found out yesterday that my Great-Grandfather fought at Ypres.
A yellowed newspaper interview with my grandmother tells of when her dad, who served with the Canadian Highlanders, returned home, all bunting and It’s a Long Way To Tipperary. Apparently it didn’t seem so bad in the midst of the celebrations. I wonder how much of that was relief. He was one of those who survived, and although he suffered the affects of mustard gas and frostbite for the rest of his life, he was one of those who came home, who made it to November 12th, 1918.
A hundred years ago, the guns fell silent over the War To End All Wars. But just twenty-two years later, my great-uncle was being evacuated from Dunkirk. A hundred years since Armistice and war is still a reality, still a source of pride and identity and power. We walk through fields of poppies while singing marching songs.
The tragedy is that there’s a vampiric part of our collective psyche that’s built on blood; the blood of our enemies and the blood of our people. That multi-million pound arms industry will never be funded by never agains, after all; memories of the past aren’t always enough to bring piece, especially when every problem looks like a battle and every solution looks like a bullet.
Embodying visions of peace that build on remembrance but take seriously the present and set about creating a future… That’s the hard part. It means taking responsibility for the Never Agains, each one of us. If we’re to beat swords into ploughshares, we’re going to need more blacksmiths, more inventors, more people willing to see their weapons and their perspectives transformed.
This morning I took my son to the local Remembrance Day parade. A group of veterans marched in front of rows of children, and we stood in silence before the war memorial. We prayed that we’d remember as the names of the fallen were floated on the wind as we made our way home. A hundred years have passed worldwide but not a single day of peace. May our hearts and hands awaken to the ways of peace, for in the fields of blood the poppies still grow.