It is often said that we must learn from history in order to avoid making the same mistakes in the future, and there's a lot of truth to that logic. Here in Canada Remembrance Day is one tool that is used to help us collectively remember wars of the past, the fallen soldiers, and the sacrifices that must be made in times of war.
We Canadians seem to have learned the lessons of the realities of war and as a result we've largely stayed out of international conflicts throughout my lifetime, and I'm certainly thankful for that. Sure we've sent our troops to keep the peace in various hot-spots around the globe, and we've been dragged into a conflict or two in support of our allies, but we Canadians don't go looking for war, and we certainly don't glorify war.
Many parts of the world aren't so lucky. Civil wars in Syria and Iraq continue to drag on, killing more than 80,000 people last year alone between the two. Yemen, Sudan, Somalia – war zone, war zone, war zone. There are dozens of armed conflicts taking place around the globe at any one time – war might be largely a thing of the past for we Canadians, but it is a harsh daily reality for millions of people around the world.
Fortunately I've never been personally touched by war. Like many in this fine nation, I am the first generation of my family born in Canada, I have no friends or relatives who have served in the Canadian military, let alone seen battle, and there has never been a time in my life where I (or now my children) would have been expected to step up and go off to war, to fight the good fight.
So Remembrance Day is always a conflicted time for me, and I suspect for many. I'm grateful to live in a country that isn't wrapped in the horrors of war, and I'm thankful that as a nation we decided decades ago that while we can and should honour our own fallen heroes in battles of the past, we don't glorify war, and we certainly don't see it as an effective tool for conflict resolution – it's a last resort, and one that we haven't had to resort to with any notable frequency since the world wars of the 20th century. At the same time, I look around the rest of the world, and my heart sinks when I imagine children woken in the middle of the night to the sound of bombs dropping or of automatic weapons firing. I think about the thousands of lives taken each year by warring nations – fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, future scientists or teachers, potential bakers or farmers stripped from the planet, torn from their families, all in the name of war.
There is no glory in war, I don't care what anyone says. The best wars are wars averted in my opinion, and I suspect that this is one of the lessons that war has taught us, but as a world-wide civilization, we haven't exactly embraced the advice.
Many nations have learned that war is best avoided, including our own. Our military has largely been used as peacekeepers in my lifetime, and that suits me just fine.
On this Remembrance Day, I'll be reflecting on Canada's war heroes of the past, I'll be appreciating how fortunate I am to have been born in a country where we understand the horror of war, and where we avoid it at all costs, and I will also be thinking about the millions of my fellow humans around the world who don't have the luxury of taking the time to remember war as if it were a thing of the past.