Friday, 11 November 2016

The Hope of Remembrance

I was going to write this as a FB post, but it became too long. As is my Remembrance Day custom, I write in memory of my grandfather, Joseph "Andy" Bernier, who joined the Canadian army just a couple weeks after we went to war in 1939 and spent the next six years in and out of active combat in various fields of the European theatre. He served through to the end of the war and beyond, eventually being one of just two hundred Canadian soldiers who participated in the last recorded action of the war in Europe: the liberation of Texel Island on May 20, 1945, which still had an active German garrison almost a full two weeks after the surrender. As always, I am very proud to call him grandfather, and hope always that I might have but half his courage.

This year though, I face a poignant reality that drives home all the more the importance of the sacrifices he and so many made during those dark years, as we face a horrible darkness of our own. Seventy years after my grandfather's struggle--and that of his entire generation--against powerful fascist, racist regimes ended, we face the same struggle in our days: except now it is not emerging in some foreign power across seas and oceans, but rather in our own democracies. 
It is my fervent hope that this struggle will not be as bloody as theirs turned out to be, that in fact it will be a war of words rather than arms, but that nonetheless our eventual victory will be as decisive as it was in 1945. More, I hope that in the end this struggle will allow us to exceed even the great accomplishments that that greatest generation achieved, that it will be not merely to conserve what is being threatened but to progress towards something greater. Their struggle led to the founding of the United Nations: might ours lead to genuine unity among the peoples of this world, a unity founded upon mutual respect and, yes, love, a unity that sees as much value in the child born in a small African village as one born to a real estate mogul in Queens, such that we can begin the work of healing the wounds that we continue to inflict upon our planet.

In the immortal words of Tennyson, "Tho' much is taken, much abides," and we remain "strong in will, to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."

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