11.11.2005

eleven eleven

Of course it's November 11, Armistice Day, Veterans Day (US), Remembrance Day (Canada). It's understandably a much bigger holiday in Canada than in the US, since Canada really fought that nightmare war, not just popped in for a quick appearance at the end.

I'm not much for honouring veterans, although my heart is filled with sympathy for what they've endured. I've read a lot about World War I, mostly in novels like All Quiet On The Western Front, and Pat Barker's Regeneration Trilogy, among others. The war commemorated on November 11 is the perfect example of the utter futility of war, the utter horror it inflicts, planned by a ruling elite for their own purposes, but shouldered by working people, on both sides. (Remember Geoffrey Palmer scooping up those tin soldiers in Blackadder Goes Forth? The most heartbreaking bit of comedy I've ever seen.)

The best thing we could ever do to honour veterans to stop creating them. Work for peace.

27 comments:

James said...

I always observe Remembrance Day with a poppy and a Pogo Armistice Day comic strip, since Walt Kelly always observed the day.

The strip I found this year:

-----
[Pogo, Churchy, and Porkypine sit pensively in their punt]
-----
[Long shot of them still siting, still thinking]
-----
Porkypine: Y'know, it seems to me this is all backwards... We, ever'body, ought to keep our big mouths shut all the whole year long so's we'd have time to think of two minutes' worth of somethin' to say on the eleventh day of November.
-----

L-girl said...

Excellent, James. Really great.

Expat Traveler said...

I'd agree with you Laura, not to mention the amount of debt that comes with war.

James said...

It often seems that there is more wisdom in a week of Pogo strips than can be found in any branch of the US federal government.

Porkypine is my favourite philosopher. I try to live by his adage:

Don't take life serious. It ain't no-how permanent.

RobfromAlberta said...

The War of 1812 was Canada's conception, Confederation was its birth and WWI was the point at which our country lost its childhood innocence for good. Oh, but at such a cost.

L-girl said...

The cost of WWI was astronomical. Reading about it is heartbreaking.

Suitcase Jenny said...

I laughed when you said that Canadians actually fought the war, and not just popped in for an appearance. You wouldnt believe how many people will bite your head off for saying that. Thank you.

I strongly believe in celebrating veterans because they did go there and risk their lives for us. I know what you are saying though, that it would be better if there was no war at all. I agree, but since there is war, and people do go, I like to let them know how greatful I am, and celebrate their bravery.

Thanks for your post!

nataleo said...

I have been enjoying this site for some time now and finally decided to make the plunge and add my 2 cents :)
I have recently noticed a couple of things about Remembrance Day-the biggest thing is that it is not recognized the same throughout the country with respect to schools and stores being open or closed. I live in Canada's smallest province where almost everything is closed in honor of the holiday. I know that it is like another day in most parts of the country where stores/offices/schools are open. Perhaps some of you can clear that up for me incase I have that wrong....
IMHO, It's unfortunate that it could not be designated a statutory holiday where we remember the sacrifices that were made to make our country so great. Another thing I noticed today on an American TV channel was the pushing of "Veteran's Day Sales" -I had no idea that this holiday was being used to make more money...it made me sad.

RobfromAlberta said...

Nataleo, you are right about the various levels of observance. I lived in Quebec for awhile and Remembrance Day barely registers at all there. Here in Alberta, it is a holiday (if that's really the right word for such a somber observance), but most stores and malls remain open. Schools, banks and most offices close, however.

As an aside, I watched the national observance today and it was very moving. It's heartbraking to see how few of our ancien combattants remain, but the turnout for the vets was very good.

James said...

The cost of WWI was astronomical. Reading about it is heartbreaking.

I think I included the Great Big Sea song "Recruiting Sargeant" on the CD we gave you. If I didn't, I should have. It tells the story of the Blue Puttees. 800 fought in the Battle of the Somme. Only 68 survived the first day, July 1, which is now Memorial Day in Newfoundland.

(Aside: J.R.R. Tolkien also fought at the Somme, losing all but one of his childhood friends there. It shaped his portrayals of battle and technology in The Lord of the Rings.)

I laughed when you said that Canadians actually fought the war, and not just popped in for an appearance.

As Fowler says in Chicken Run: "Pushy Americans, always showing up late to every war."

James said...

Just realized, I should have posted the lyrics:

Two recruiting sergeants
came to the CLB,
for the sons of the merchants,
to join the Blue Puttees
So all the hands enlisted,
five hundred young men
Enlist you Newfoundlanders
and come follow me

They crossed the broad
Atlantic in the brave Florizel,
And on the sands of Suvla,
they entered into hell
And on those bloody beaches,
the first of them fell

[Chorus]
So it's over the mountains,
and over the sea
Come brave Newfoundlanders
and join the Blue Puttees
You'll fight in Flanders,
and at Galipoli
Enlist you Newfoundlanders
and come follow me

Then the call came from London,
for the last July drive
To the trenches with the regiment,
prepare yourselves to die
The roll call next morning,
just a handful survived.
Enlist you Newfoundlanders
and come follow me

[Chorus]

The stone men on Water Street
still cry for the day
When the pride of the city
went marching away
A thousand men slaughtered,
to hear the King say
Enlist you Newfoundlanders
and come follow me

[Chorus x3]

Wrye said...


The statues are old now
And they're fading fast
Something big must have happened
Way in the past
The names are so faded
You can hardly see.
But the faces are always young to me.

Friends
aint s'posed to die
'Til they're old
And friends
aint s'posed to die
In pain
No one should die alone
When he's only twenty one
And living
Shouldn't make you feel ashamed.

-John Gray, Billy Bishop Goes to War

L-girl said...

You wouldnt believe how many people will bite your head off for saying that. Thank you.

I mean it half-sarcastically. Had I been around then, I would have been one of the many thousands protesting the war. In the US, thousands went to jail for draft resisting.

My jibe at the US's involvement is more the understanding that the UK and Canada suffered so much more.

but since there is war, and people do go, I like to let them know how greatful I am, and celebrate their bravery.

I'm not grateful, and certainly not over the lunacy of WWI. I don't want to celebrate any part of war, and make it seem like something grand and noble. It's anything but.

L-girl said...

have been enjoying this site for some time now and finally decided to make the plunge and add my 2 cents :)

Welcome! Glad you decided to chime in.

Another thing I noticed today on an American TV channel was the pushing of "Veteran's Day Sales" -I had no idea that this holiday was being used to make more money

There's nothing in the US that isn't used to make money. That's what US "holidays" are, for many people - excuses for sales, excuses for shopping. There are also observances and remembrances, which are meaningful to many people. But no holiday is without a sale!

L-girl said...

Wrye, thank you for posting that.

G said...

The best thing we could ever do to honour Veterans is to stop creating them.

Profound, honest, and true. Couldn't have said it better. Thanks!

On topic, Waramps.ca has a concise online biography of John McCrae, the late, infamous writer of In Flanders Fields.

G said...

In Flanders Fields
By Colonel John McCrae


In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

L-girl said...

Thanks so much, G.

In junior high, I had an English teacher who was into memorization, not at all common in those days. Along with the Gettysburg Address, we memorized the Flanders Field poem. I barely understood what I was memorizing in those days, but now I'm glad I know it.

L-girl said...

I think I included the Great Big Sea song "Recruiting Sargeant" on the CD we gave you. If I didn't, I should have. It tells the story of the Blue Puttees. 800 fought in the Battle of the Somme. Only 68 survived the first day, July 1, which is now Memorial Day in Newfoundland.

I can only shamefacedly admit that I have not listened to the CD. :/ It doesn't play on the box I use to listen to music when I cook... and I haven't put it on the stereo yet. Shame on me.

I see the lyrics mention Galipoli. One of my favorite "war songs" (anti-war, actually) is about Galipoli, And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda. The Pogues do a great version, and I heard some folks in a pub in a small town in Ireland sing it, it brought tears to my eyes.

Lyrics here, some audio too.

teflonjedi said...

Re-emerging back into the blogosphere, after having settled in somewhat on the west coast...

One of my (new) co-workers just returned from a trip up to Vancouver last week, where she went for a visa renewal visit. Shw was kind enough to bring me back some Aero bars! When she returned, she remarked on all the poppy flowers everyone was wearing, and asked after why almost everyone was wearing them. Was there a special event or occasion? I blinked, and replied that today was Remembrance Day, and everyone was honouring the war dead, and their sacrifices.

You generally don't see that kind of quiet show of respect down here. It's a uniquely Canadian thing.

L-girl said...

Hey teflonjedi! I hope things are well with you out on the other coast. I'll have to check back on your blog to see how your x-country drive went.

I think it's odd that your co-worker didn't know what the poppy stood for. US veteran groups sell them to raise money and many Americans wear them on Nov 11. It's not as common as here in Canada, but it's still fairly well known.

Marnie said...

I was surprised to read the same sort of thing on someone else's blog. She had an American visiting her in Toronto, and he asked what was up with the red flowers everybody was wearing.

L-girl said...

I wonder if it's a generational thing? Perhaps 20-somethings in the US don't know about the poppies.

Also, it's basically obligatory here for public figures, so it's much more visible. The only thing like that in the US is the flag lapel pin (esp after 9/11 - bleh), and for a long time in the arts and entertainment industries, the red AIDS ribbon.

Lone Primate said...

The War of 1812 was Canada's conception, Confederation was its birth and WWI was the point at which our country lost its childhood innocence for good. Oh, but at such a cost.

Nicely put.

teflonjedi said...

I think it's odd that your co-worker didn't know what the poppy stood for.

Not as odd as you might think...she's from India, and only came to the US when she was getting her PhD.

I hope things are well with you out on the other coast. I'll have to check back on your blog to see how your x-country drive went.

Coem on by! Still filling in my notes from the trip, but should have it all completed by sometime tomorrow.

L-girl said...

she's from India, and only came to the US when she was getting her PhD.

Whew. I was starting to feel very old!

James said...

It's unfortunate that it could not be designated a statutory holiday where we remember the sacrifices that were made to make our country so great. Another thing I noticed today on an American TV channel was the pushing of "Veteran's Day Sales" -I had no idea that this holiday was being used to make more money...it made me sad.

All in all, I'd rather work through Remembrance Day and reflect on it privately than see it commercialized.

I can only shamefacedly admit that I have not listened to the CD. :/ It doesn't play on the box I use to listen to music when I cook... and I haven't put it on the stereo yet. Shame on me.

It might not be working because it's a hybrid (part CD, part CD-ROM). Try it in your computer. :)

Some more poetry, this time from Britten's War Requiem, text by Wilfred Owen:

So Abram rose, and clave the wood, and went,
And took the fire with him, and a knife.
And as they sojourned both of them together,
Isaac the first-born spake and said, My Father,
Behold the preparations, fire and iron,
But where the lamb for this burnt-offering?
Then Abram bound the youth with belts and straps,
And builded parapets and trenched there,
And streched forth the knife to slay his son.
When lo! and angel called him out of heaven,
Saying, Lay not thy hand upon the lad,
Neither do anything to him. Behold,
A ram, caught in a thicket by its horns;
Offer the Ram of Pride instead of him.
But the old man would not so,
but slew his son, -
And half the seed of Europe, one by one.