Remembrance Day

Mark Day, ArtSci '13

We are a privileged people here in North America. We enjoy unparalleled scientific advancement, immeasurable wealth and personal and economic freedom previously unheard of in human history. Yet, we seem to have forgotten why and how we are able to enjoy these privileges that many around the world are still striving and dying for.

As former American Vice-President Dick Cheney said, “It is easy to take liberty for granted when you have never had it taken from you.” Our generation for the most part, has enjoyed a period of peace, often takes these freedoms for granted. The reality, however, is that such freedoms as being able to speak your mind, or practice a certain faith, come at a price.

For those born and raised in this country we are taught about that price early on in school. I can distinctly recall assemblies in elementary school where Remembrance Day was explained to us. It is a day when we remember the sacrifices made by thousands of men and women not just in order to keep other people safe, but to defend such liberties.

Yet as I walked down University St. this week I could count the number of poppies people were wearing on two hands. It is a simple act meant to acknowledge the sacrifices made by the soldiers of the past and present, yet most people our age can’t be bothered to show this small token of respect.

There are many opponents to the idea of wearing red poppies for Remembrance Day. There is one movement in particular that aims to replace them with a white version in order to promote pacifism. There are even those who say that the poppy is condescending and promotes an us-and-them attitude. These people say wearing a poppy does nothing and if you really cared you would volunteer your time with veterans groups.

While I encourage people to volunteer with veterans groups, discounting the symbolism of poppies is to discount the memories of those who fought and died under both the Maple Leaf and the Red Ensign. There’s a reason that year after year, the Royal Canadian Legion makes and distributes poppies: it matters to them.

Why would veterans continue to perform such acts if they didn’t believe the poppy served a purpose? By wearing a poppy you do the most significant thing you can for both our veterans and our fallen brothers and sisters: you acknowledge their sacrifice. When you do something commendable do you not want that action to receive acknowledgement?

By putting a few coins in a box and pinning a plastic flower to your chest you don’t accomplish anything tangible, but you do the greatest service you can to these men and women. This little red flower shows that you care about the people who gave their lives so that we can live like we do.

This doesn’t mean you support the wars these people fight. This does not mean you’re a person who thirsts for violence and bloodshed. What it means is that you know peace is not free. It means you know that sometimes the cost of freedom is blood, and you thank those who paid this price for us.

From failing hands to faltering hands has the torch been given by these men and women. We are breaking our faith with those who have died by discounting their sacrifice. We take our freedoms for granted, and we take these sacrifices for granted. These dead men and women, and those who are still alive, want one thing more than anything else, to be thanked and remembered.

They want future generations to understand why they made these sacrifices. They want us to realize that freedom isn’t free, and the currency they chose to offer to pay for it was their own blood.

As a generation that shows a general profound disrespect as a whole, we are failing to perform this most basic duty. So every year, come November, at the very least wear a poppy to show your thanks to those who paid the ultimate price. It’s up to us to start giving our soldiers, both past and present, the respect they deserve. Let’s face it, no matter how much they receive, it will never be enough.

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