Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I Will Remember

LOOK down, fair moon, and bathe this scene;
Pour softly down night’s nimbus floods, on faces ghastly, swollen, purple;
On the dead, on their backs, with their arms toss’d wide,

Pour down your unstinted nimbus, sacred moon.

Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass
For many years now, I have marked this day with the memories of Jung’s Collective Unconscious. I was not alive to wave goodbye to loved ones as they took the train off to war. I have not visited the battlefields of the First and Second World Wars.
I have been offered other people’s interpretations of what happened and when and to whom. History served to high school and university students: the text books full of dates; the literature full of pain; the propaganda full of euphamisms; the paintings that broke the hearts and minds of the Group of Seven Painters who went to the Front Lines in France and Belguim to document the ugly Truth of War; the poems of the men who served; and the photographs in the National Archives Of Canada.

These are the fractured lenses I have used to create in my mind an image of Sacrifice. These are the tools I have to recognize the efforts of more than 100,000,000 men and the untold number of women who left our land, a land that had not seen the face of war since the days of Napoleon and Waterloo, fed on the stories of valour and chvalry and victory.
They left a place of safe haven and entered into a world of hell. Bombs screaming from the heavens. Sirens whining day and night and no where to hide. Mud holes and trenches and frozen toes and fingers. Living on smoke and rum and hope. Praying when they could. Wandering lost when they could not.

Moments of stolen happiness. A weekend off duty in a city unbombed. A hot meal. A card game won. Letters from home. A sense that everyone was doing what they could.
Who am I to sit in this time and place of relative safety and write of things I have not seen? What shall I do to mark this day, this perennial moment of Remembrance?
I am a storyteller and a singer. I do what I can. I keep what I have learned from all the different faces of war I have seen and I pass it along. And I stand in front of my peers in my workplace and take part in the ceremonies of the day. I raise my voice and proudly sing our National Anthem and Amazing Grace. And every time I sing Danny Boy, I remember.
The Theatre of War may change: the country, the people, the agressors, the Fallen. But the face of War never changes. The struggle of man against man is inevitable, as the rising of the sun in the morning. That I wish we did not have to fight matters not. War does not care what I think. And its dehumanizing face will never turn from us.
We must remember.
I chose the verse above, not because of the conflict that spawned it, but because it represents the face of War I know. And having sung its haunting setting by Ned Rorem, I have been altered by the experience and I will always remember.
Will you?

No comments: