I Remember So I Never Have to Know

By Jason Menard

I wear a poppy and participate in Remembrance Day not as a celebration of war, but as a reminder to learn from its lessons and, hopefully, never repeat them.

I celebrate and memorialize our history so that I never have to know war in reality.

Sadly, our society often forgets those lessons in a rush to fetishise war. We misguidedly conscript military terminology to use in our day-to-day efforts. There are various “Armies,” “Corps,” and “Regiments.”

The organizations will claim they’re fighting for someone; but what’s missing from that statement is the fact that it means they’re in combat against another group. It means we haven’t learned our lessons from war. And in trying to claim these words for our own, we muddle their meaning.

The seeds of World War II were sown at the close of The Great War. Instead of nations working together to find a resolution, the Treaty of Versailles was about punishment, concessions, and remuneration. It was about one side defeating the other. Comprehensively.

Yet when we our political ‘engagement’ strategies with that same language, we wonder why our political culture is increasingly polarized and its participants are disenfranchised.

We continue to use military language today and ignore its impact. Our political forums are battlegrounds, not negotiations. We fight for our interests and demand concessions, instead of working towards compromise and negotiating a mutually beneficial solution. Our advocates are only that in name – but they’re armies, corps, and regiments in behaviour and attitude.

By conscripting military language, we imbue our efforts with a self-defeating foundation. And we show that while we may remember, we have learned nothing.

We use the language from the theatre of war, but we fail to recognize the reality of its impact.

We indulge our fetish through hyper-realistic video games, film depictions, and novels that give us the illusion of understanding. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying these entertainment options, as long as we keep their veracity in perspective.

It can be tough when we fight real-life wars as if they’re video games – sending remotes and drones that minimize our risk and maximize our damage. But we fail to appreciate the devastation they cause. We celebrate our victories, but we rarely lament their losses.

We are quick to fight for what’s right, but we’re slow to consider if there are other ways to ensure what’s right without fighting.

We remember, but we haven’t learned.

We remember, but we don’t know.

I remember to honour those who made the choice to defend our way of life in the moment. I refuse to apply revisionist thinking or assess their decisions with the benefit of generations of hindsight. I admire the courage and conviction that these men and women – many having barely reached adulthood – to fight for what they believe is right.

I remember to honour my grandfather, who served in the navy. And my wife’s grandfather, who was enlisted in the air force. I remember to be thankful that my own parents never were forced into battle.

But most importantly, I remember so that I don’t have to know.

I remember the lessons of war so as to help ensure they are not repeated. I remember the mentality that brought about these conflicts so that I can work towards preventing that type of rigidity and polarity in our day-to-day conflicts. And I remember the images and stories that I’ve seen and been told, so that I don’t have to ever experience those first-hand.

We imagine we understand, but we don’t. Entertainment-based depictions of war can never rival its reality. I wear a poppy in the hopes I never have to personally see the carnage and human devastation that gave them rise in Flanders’ Fields.

My reasons to celebrate Remembrance Day are many, but most importantly it’s to remind myself to apply the lessons of our past to help ensure we never have to know the horrors of war in the future.

I remember so that I — and generations to come — never have to know.

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