Home > The Call to Speak out, Theological Reflections > Remembering – so we do not forget

Remembering – so we do not forget


Remembrance Day is a day that I struggle with and have many mixed feelings and thoughts regarding it. This week, I’ve had many discussions with people about the politics of war and remembering soldiers and it’s interesting to note the passion that goes into the various sides of the debates. My dilemma this week has been how do I honour those who gave their lives in the war – and in particular my family members who fought in the war – while also holding a pacifist stance on peace. Somebody posted a picture of a white poppy on facebook and that seemed to be my compromise, a third way. Sadly, I never found one and did not have time to make one for myself.

I thought I was going to escape any further wrestling with this day but the church where I work began the service with remembering those from the parish who died in the two world wars. I have to admit I was not a happy camper in that moment. I mean no disrespect. Honest. It’s easy for me to stand on my soap box of pacifism when I have not experienced directly the threat of war or been harmed by powerful people. It is easy for me to say that I would stand with my hunted brother while it remains in the abstract, but when push comes to shove, I do not what I would do. But I struggle with this day and have many unanswered questions: why do we only hear about the two world wars? if we are honouring veterans, why not honour those who have fought in less popular wars? why don’t we remember those who had the unpopular yet courageous stand against war? why do we set aside the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month to remember our veterans as we send more to war?

I remember when war was declared on Iraq and how angry my grandma was. I remember her saying to me, “Elizabeth, I have been to war. I have experienced war and its impact. War is an awful thing.”

To remember is to not forget – what is the point of remembering only to forget and do the same thing all over again?

I came across a slogan recently that I love – “Make love, not war!” A little risque, yes, but I love it’s shock value (a quick caveat – I am one of those old fashioned types that believes sex is for marriage…. my rationale for this is for another post, at another time… and I am not advocating that people go and sleep with everyone).

As I was coming home from work today, I was thinking about this slogan. Why is it that sleeping around in the name of love creates such a negative reaction while killing in the name of peace lends us to honouring those people?

Today was interesting though as I went from remembering war veterans to remembering Christ in the Eucharist. I’m not going to equate the two. But it was indeed an interesting transition. I got thinking about the passover – and how to this day, Jewish people remember what God did through it. And then the Eucharist, which is remembering with thanksgiving what Christ has done for us on the cross.

We need to remember these things – we need to remember so we do not forget. But we should not remember in a passive way – we need to remember and work towards peace, towards a way of life that does not include violence, oppression and war. We need to remember to spur us onto seeking justice, loving mercy and walking humbly with our God.

I began to think of my own story and how family members who do not support me have told me I need to “forgive and forget” and who have made claims about my continuing to speak out. Interestingly, we don’t tell a war veteran to simply “forgive and forget” and empathy is given when they tell their story and how it continues to effect him. I have a friend who is in his nineties and suffered greatly as a prisoner of war and he has nightmares to this day – I’m not sure that anyone would dare to tell him to “get over it” and “move on” and yet these are common words that survivors of sexual abuse hear over and over.

Childhood sexual abuse and other forms of family violence and addictions tend to be passed down from generation to generation. I wonder, if we told and remembered our stories more if this would actually happen? Generational abuse is something I honestly don’t get. But I wonder, if we called the gruesomeness of the actions that wounded us so deeply, would we act on urges to harm another in the same way?

I think we need to all remember our stories. Partly because each of us bears witness to God’s work, love and grace. But also, so that we all work towards a world in which violence is no more. We must remember – so that these things do not keep happening. We must tell our stories to stop oppression and violence. We need to listen to the breaking hearts of those around us so that we can know and take heed of what oppression, violence and war causes so that we do not repeat these things.

I do not think simply remembering honours those who have given their lives, but working towards peace does.

Today, in the moment of silence, many people who have suffered at the hands of others were brought to mind. Their stories need to be told and remembered. and today was a reminder for me of the need to remember.

We must remember. So we do not forget. So we work for peace. So we stop violence.

  1. Fellow Classmate :)
    November 19, 2012 at 11:17 pm

    I stumbled upon your blog in doing research for Foundations in Community Engagement; and as I read your posts I was amazed to discover that we are in the same class (Prof B.H. is awesome on so many levels isn’t she?). I just wanted to let you know that your writings inspired me; your faith has helped me in my own for I too have been struggling with my classes and I forgot that God is there in everything. I have been struggling in finding fellow Christian friends, and I am amazed that there is a Christian – and a very courageous, inspirational one at that – in one of the classes in I have been struggling in. 🙂 Not struggling per se, but struggling to connect with.

    • November 19, 2012 at 11:24 pm

      Your post totally made my day! It is encouraging to hear that my writings have encouraged you. I’m happy to connect in person and chat sometime!

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