Why we remember

Remembrance day can inspire many conflicted feelings for those who would rather support peace, see the end to wars, and question the reasons why nations choose to fight in the first place.

I have a hard time, especially on this day, voicing my dissent in a way that doesn’t feel overtly disrespectful to the very real suffering – and death – experience by other human beings, and their families, and their communities. War affects, and has affected, those who may not even support it.

Today, I’ve found myself returning to the question of why we fight, and how we can work towards an end to violence. If peace begins at home, what kind of home do we want to build? And if wars are fought for nations, and nationhood, where do we, as individuals fit into this? Do we support our nations, do we question them and the systems that support them? What does it mean to belong here? What do we mean when we say “we”, and how is this grouping a subtle act of violence itself?

I keep coming back to the Canadian context, the Canada that’s presented in the media, the one that doesn’t show the same picture I see on my streets, in my neighbourhood. The Canada that is a nation of settlers who are mostly unaware of their treaties, of newcomers and children of newcomers, of first nations who are still undoing the legacy of colonialism.

The Canada whose peaceful life was supposedly disrupted a few weeks ago, when a gunman stormed Ottawa – in whose Canada are we living in peace, or rather, who is included in this “we” that we presume are not living under constant threat?

I don’t have any answers today, but am inspired to keep thinking about this, even more so after reading my friend Rachel‘s recent blog post. She asked about the meaning of Canadian identity, and wrote:

As a non-aboriginal Canadian I have a responsibility to know my role and my history as a treaty person. I must learn what it really means to be Canadian. I have a responsibility to learn a history of on-going colonialism and my unintended complicity in the suffering and oppression of Aboriginal peoples.

Asking these questions is an important first step when we are considering our role in a global society, considering how to pay our respects to those suffering from conflict, and considering which conflicts are ongoing but may be invisible to those more privileged in society, like the ongoing, subtle violence of colonialism and racism and Canada.

Who, among the living and the dead, do we remember, and who do we respect?

NaBloPoMo November 2014

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