Generational negligence

By Ruth Davenport

I watched the Remembrance Day ceremony in Ottawa this year and was struck by the difference between the attending war veterans and the "student ambassadors." The vets were teary, stalwart and lost. The students were bored.

How many people truly "remember" the World Wars? My generation is not allowed to forget them and we never will, but in terms of remembering, Remembrance Day is relevant to only a shrinking handful of individuals who fought in and lived through the wars. For the rest of us, there is nothing to remember. We lost no liberty, freedom or privilege precisely because of the efforts of the soldiers who lived or died. The status quo remained. And so, 56 years after WWII ended, we have memorials to victims whose sacrifices are not quite forgotten by anyone and weeping veterans who are remembered by no one. We do not forget the blows dealt to the sanctity of the Western "standard of living," but because it survived we do not remember the tragedies, the victims and the sacrifice.

My proof? The four planes that crashed on September 11. A scant two months later, there is no tribute to the thousands of civilians who lie in unmarked graves in New York, Washington or Pennsylvania, much like thousands of soldiers who lie in unmarked graves across Europe. There is no concern as to why innocents died in Kamikaze attacks eerily similar to those employed by the Japanese in World War Two. We will not remember them despite the total disruption of our way of life. We who survived, dishonour the memory of the dead through firebombing mosques and xenophobic behaviours against anyone with olive skin. We will never quite forget the people buried under 1.2 million tons of rubble, but we will not remember and their deaths are rendered meaningless by our neglect of the lesson we could have learned.

I haven’t forgotten the footage of planes crashing into the towers nor the images of people leaping to their deaths from burning buildings. I would willingly sacrifice some of the luxuries we take for granted if it meant that such an event never occurred again. If that footage were played as regularly as Coca-Cola commercials, we would remember and never forget.

Yet, with every hate crime perpetuated against a Canadian or American Muslim or Arab, with every vandalized mosque, with every new attack launched without conclusive evidence of who the terrorists were, we dishonour the victims. We remember and pay tribute to our arrogance, liberties and cultural imperialism. These elements have been manufactured as the victims of September 11, and we rage against those who assaulted them and took them from us. And in 56 years, the real victims–the mothers, fathers, wives and husbands–will not be forgotten but they will certainly not be remembered.

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