100 years later, what have we learned?

In today’s blog post we first wish to highlight two thought-provoking articles as we near the 100th anniversary of the World War I Armistice.

In the first, entitled  “Don’t misunderstand the true message of wearing a poppy,” William Ray, a veteran and the son of a veteran, challenges his colleagues to speak with power and conviction against the scourge of war and calls on the rest of us to honour their sacrifice by doing everything we can to live together in peaceful community.

Every day that we do whatever small thing is in our power to advance the condition of those in our communities and build bridges of understanding and tolerance, then we make their sacrifice a little more meaningful. And that is an act of remembrance each of us can, and should, do every day of our lives.

The second article considers how a “flurry” of new books marking the hundredth anniversary largely fail to consider the hugely negative consequences of the Armistice itself.

Despite its flaws, the treaty [of Versailles] was far less harsh than many imposed on other nations that had been defeated in war. The problem was something else: when the war came to an end, at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918, few Germans considered themselves defeated. The resentment that led to a new cataclysm two decades later was really forged by the Armistice.

For the full article, see: A Hundred Years After The Armistice (Adam Hochschild, New Yorker, 5 November 2018 issue).

In Canada our commemoration of the signing of the Armistice jars up against a terrible reality.

Through our government’s refusal to stop arms shipments to Saudi Arabia, we find ourselves complicit in a conflict where air strikes on children and the imminent starvation of millions are weapons being wielded by a country we call an ally.

At a press conference on Parliament Hill, Rideau Institute President Peggy Mason asked:

What price Canada’s soul? We call on the Government of Canada to end all further arms exports to Saudi Arabia.

Alex Neve, Secretary-General of Amnesty International – Canada, also participated in the press conference along with representatives from Project Ploughshares and Oxfam Quebec:

Canada should [also] intensify efforts to secure a wider global ban on all arms deals with Saudi Arabia and any other country party to the war in Yemen.  A UN Security Council arms embargo on Yemen is desperately needed.  Canada, a country that aspires to be a voice for human rights on the Security Council, should be outspoken and active in pressing for that embargo.  That means, however, that we must take the first step and suspend our own Saudi arms deal.

Such actions — now long overdue — would be a fitting honour to the countless Canadians who have died fighting for the values that they fervently believed this country represents.

Photo credit: CC BY 2.0 image “Rememberence [sic] Day 2007” by Douglas O’Brien on Flickr

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