Living Like We Remember

uncle_ken_medalsYesterday I watched my youngest daughter take part in a Remembrance Day event, and I’m glad things like this still happen. It’s good. I’ve always taken time to explain the details of war history to my kids, and we keep the World War I medals of my great uncle in a prominent place in our house. That’s them here.

But I’m much less than glad that we’re forgetting the main reason we remember the sacrifices of war at all. Despite the annual and widespread presence of poppies, wreath ceremonies and the dusting off of that wonderful old poem by John McRae, the popular slogan “Lest We Forget” is, I’m afraid, just a slogan. The ways of our culture prove it. When it comes down to what really matters about the soldiers that went before us, we are forgetting. We’re forgetting fast.

Remembrance Day is all about calling to mind the sacrifice and pain of people who fought on our behalf. They fought, we are told, for freedom, and I’m glad of it. But I shudder to think what the soldiers of yesteryear would think about the way so many people today waste the freedoms that cost so much.

Every one of us is the master of our days. How we use our time is entirely up to us. Will we use that expensive freedom to take it easy, to seek our own pleasure, to relax and coast on the achievements of a by-gone era? Or will we roll up our sleeves, strive to become better, make good things happen, take wise risks and serve others before ourselves?  The answer to these questions shows how we either respect or abuse the sacrifices made in the past.

As I look around at the direction our world is taking, I see fewer examples of the wise use of freedoms we supposedly honour on Remembrance Day. I’m sorry to say, but I can’t deny that more and more people are less competent at the things that matter.  We’re getting better at leisure, socializing, following the fashions of the day and consuming entertainment, but in many ways much less competent than the young people buried in Flanders fields. Did these young men really die so we could develop a cultural addiction to the smartphone?

And it doesn’t end there. Freedom of speech, freedom of thought and freedom of actions are rapidly eroding across the so-called free world. It’s a steady trend, slow enough that it’s possible to ignore if you want to, but very real just the same.

Remembering the sacrifices of others is vitally important, but such sacrifices also come with a certain  responsibility. Our freedoms came at such a high cost to others that we must live our lives in a way that matters. That’s why “Lest We Forget” must be an idea that we think about every morning we wake up in a free country. To be honoured properly, “remembering” must be something we live out constantly with wisdom, selflessness, hard work and wise use of our time. This is the best way to keep Remembrance Day every day, as we should.