On this Armistice Day, the anniversary of the end of the WW1, military remembrance services are held at cenotaphs in many European countries as well as Canada, Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere.
Hundreds gathered at the cenotaph in Victoria today to honour the dead combatants of wars since 1914. Naval officers pushing babies in strollers, elderly veterans covered with medal and ribbons, remember their comrades to the sound of bugles and loud gun salutes. Our child soldiers paraded in their uniforms. ( Canada will not sign the international agreement on child soldiers because we have child soldiers, called cadets, here.)
Across the road a different ceremony took place at the memorial for the Canadians who formed an illegal brigade to fight fascism when Franco overthrew the democratic government of Spain. Veterans of wars in Europe, Asia and Latin America joined peace and solidarity activists in words, song and silence.
I spoke the following words.
Memory and Hope
Remembrance is important. Memory and its record in history are how we define ourselves and our society – our place in history is so important that some powers try to obliterate memory of events and people they want to obliterate. By remembering the past, we can change the present and shape the future.
I remember my father who returned from war missing some fingers and my cousin who did not return. I think of this family fighting against my husband’s family in 2 wars ……and I grieve at the senselessness of it.
Since WW2, 80% of those who die in war are unarmed civilians – mainly women and children. I want to honour their memory- the lives of the orphaned girl and her grandmother who died in the London blitz, the war widow and her baby who perished in the fire bombing of Dresden. I think of my time in Chiapas and remember the 45 women and children massacred by paramilitary forces, supported by global corporate powers, as they left church one morning.
I can not forget the mothers holding babies deformed and dying from Depleted Uranium (which originates in Canada) in Iraq hospitals – which then were bombed so that babies, mothers and medical personnel died in the recent war there.
I think of children abducted from Uganda into the deserts of the Sudan and never seen again by their parents who grieve as do “The Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo” in Argentina who may never know the fate of their children and loved ones who disappeared.
Now this week injured and ill people die in ambulances, fired on by soldiers in Palestine and Iraq. And a little girl going to school near Ramallah is gunned down.
The memorial to murdered women in front of the Vancouver bus depot has a plaque: in memory of women of Vancouver Eastside stating, “We dream of another world when the war on women is over”.
It is our role to show that war is not an answer to human conflict – that the use of institutionalized violence with the approval of society – only begets for violence. As we stand here a gun salute drowns out our voices, but only temporarily. To honour the war dead with more militarism is obscene. We best honour all those who die and suffer in war by working for peace and global justice.
As long as we promote the ideology of violence, glorify killing, and tolerate and encourage the desire to kill in our fellows humans…like those trained in torture and assassination in Fort Bennington, USA and indeed in all military institutions…we will have a war against women, all our sisters and brothers world wide.
We have a war against nature and life – as precious resources are used for militarism instead of real human security. Canada is a major global producer, with the help of our taxes of military materials and armaments…while we marginalize many to the violence of poverty. And we squander life and wealth to help a few to attain more wealth and power.
Like those women in Vancouver…we dream of a different world and so our presence here today is important – to people everywhere and ourselves. It is important that we claim our memory and our collective history as we witness to our hope and commitment for a world of peace with justice…where the human values of cooperation and respect for all, including nature, will replace the ideologies of violence.
Red flowers, poppies and carnations, symbolize our memories of those who have died in wars and violence.
White poppies symbolize our dreams and work of peace.
Today we ourselves are the most important symbols because we are saying to the world and ourselves that peace and justice are possible, we can dream of an end to violent resolution of conflict and we can dream of a world of justice as we show the world that our peace work is the process and realization of our dreams.
“ The success of the dominant ideology is to make the possibility of alternatives unthinkable. ”
Theresa Wolfwood, Barnard-Boecker Centre Foundation, Victoria, BC, CANADA