Remembering…

Red Poppy, as used on November 11

Red Poppy, as used on November 11

Tomorrow, November 11, is Remembrance day in many Commonwealth countries and Veterans Day in the US. The day was originally chosen in 1919 to observe the armistice that brought an end to the first world war. Since the end of WWI the world has seen a second world war and many smaller skirmishes that have brought large amounts of devastation and destruction. November 11 now provides an opportunity to prompt discussion and thought about all war, not just the “war to end all wars” as it was originally intended. One way to frame the violent conflicts that we often engage in is as mechanisms for disabling people on a large scale–indeed without these events it is an open question whether we would have the social consciousness surrounding disability that we have today.

In addition to the disability angle inherent in the question “What sorts of people should there be?”, November 11, should also give us additional reason to reflect on the ways in which war and related hostile actions are really direct and pragmatic ways of answering that question. In short, killing and maiming people and/or destroying the methods and materials related to their livelihood are powerful ways in which we prevent other people from continuing to be.

This said, here is a collection of other ways that November 11 intersects with the What Sorts? project themes or which might help prompt further reflection:

  • Did you know that people with disabilities or their close family members make all the (red) poppies used in the UK each year? This link will take you to a Q&A that will tell you more about how this came about. I do not know if this is common practice or not (A short web search turned up nothing). Anyone else know? Ouch Q&A: The disabled people who make the Remembrance Day poppies.
  • The song “The Band Played Watlzing Matilda” by Eric Bogle was written to commemorate the participation of Australia in WWI by fighting the Turkish Army in Gallipoli and, more importantly, to question the pride and patriotism that has come to surround the event. The song tells the story of a young man who is drafted into the war, loses both legs, and then gets shipped home to a country that is shocked and awed at what the war has done. My favourite version of the song is sung by The Pogues and thanks to the magic of YouTube can be found here. If you’d like to see them perform it live (with all the poor sound quality that a live recording usually brings), you can see that here.
  • A nice, although not completely current, collection of disability statistics regarding various current conflicts that the US is involved in, including the global war on terror and Afghanistan can be found here. Just click on the link and then do a search for “disability” or simply scroll about 1/3 of the way down the page.
  • Please feel free to post your own thoughts below and let us make tomorrow a day of reflection.
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One thought on “Remembering…

  1. They commemorated Nov 11th in at least Edmonton schools today, and at our local school it was an especially thoughtful collection of poems, essays, songs, and band performances, winning out (barely) over the brutality that is a school gym. Nov. 11 is big here in Canada, but in Australia ANZAC day–April 25th–is even bigger. I remember going to a dawn service when we were back in Perth in 2005 at the local school. At 5.30am or so the place was packed with parents, students, and teachers alike, most of whom stayed through until 8am or so.

    War commemoration is tricky, not least of all because most of the wars fought since at least WWII have garnered whatever popular support they have enjoyed only through deception and deceit on the part of the government’s waging them, something that makes commemoration down the track, especially by those close to the action, a heart-tear. It’s easy for ceremonies to slide over into a kind of glorification of war; to push a nationalism that many newer citizens find exclusionary and even offensive; or to offer a kind of justification for current escapades of misadventure and destruction. Maybe that’s why Nov 11 becomes such a locus of this kind of collective remembering for many, with its focus on the World Wars and the dwindling numbers of military survivors of them.

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