On the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month 1918. A call went out to lay down arms and ceasefire because the war was over and a peace had been agreed upon. It marked the end of the conflict of the second world war and is a day that is continued to be marked as a day of remembrance for all of those who lost their lives during the first world war.
Sunday just gone was Remembrance Sunday, a pointed reminder that remembering Armistice day did not work.
The other day I saw a poem that I had never seen before. We had studied Siegfried Sassoon in school, but had never come across this one in our studies. Interestingly enough – it could have been because of the message that it portrayed.
I saw the Prince of Darkness, with his Staff,
Standing bare-headed by the Cenotaph:
Unostentatious and respectful, there
He stood, and offered up the following prayer.
‘Make them forget, O Lord, what this Memorial
Means; their discredited ideas revive;
Breed new belief that War is purgatorial
Proof of the pride and power of being alive;
Men’s biologic urge to readjust
The Map of Europe, Lord of Hosts, increase;
Lift up their hearts in large destructive lust;
And crown their heads with blind vindictive Peace.’
The Prince of Darkness to the Cenotaph
Bowed. As he walked away I heard him laugh.
This poem reflects all that has been obscured when it comes to Remembrance Sunday and Armistice Day. The day was to be stapled onto our historical banner as a grim and deathly reminder of what war does to nations. The systematic deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, driven by the politics of another and the loss and pain and grief that their deaths left behind.
I like to remember the soldiers who have lost their lives in wars since the original armistice in 1918. I think about who they have left behind and I thank them for their service. But I also grieve them, I pity them for having to fight a war that is the result of a lesson not learned. There is no more obvious a reminder than the cenotaph in London, yet the politicians still lay their wreaths knowing of the pain they have caused so many families. Remembrance day should not just be about remembering British lives lost in conflict – but all lives. All of the innocent children and men and women caught as collateral damage in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. All of the Iraqi forces who are still being slaughtered by ISIS. Everyone, we should remember everyone.
It sickens me to know that certain political groups like to use Remembrance Day as a day to justify war. To say “our ancestors fought for our freedom and so should we!” They are wrong. Our ancestors fought for our freedom so that we shouldn’t have to. They gave their lives so that we could see the depravity of war and could turn away, find alternate solutions. Become peaceful.
But still the cogs of war turn and we learn nothing.