Inscription on the monument to the 300 Spartans who
at Thermopylai in 480 B.C. defending their country against the
Thoughts on Remembrance Day
November 11, 1998
It's Wednesday after-noon, gray, windy, cold. The CBC broadcast of
the ceremonies commemorating the 80th anniversay of World War I,
reminding us of the millions of men, women, and children killed by
war in this century, is just over. There were thoughtful words to remember the
sacrifices made - for many "the ultimate sacrifice", that
stirring euphemism for life ended prematurely, violently. Thoughtful
words from chaplains, veterans, and broadcast commentators about the
need to defend freedom and democracy even unto death.
Unspoken - someone else's death. Not the
speaker's, not that of those watching the ceremony, including me. Thoughts pass through my mind. What or who
caused those deaths, who is responsible? Surely not that
all-powerful, all-good god of the christian believers who sits above
it all watching silently, doing nothing! No, who on earth is
No, it's not the soldiers. They're just the
instrument - they kill, they die! But who is responsible for starting the
killings that we have to remember every year, at least on this day?
Politicians give the orders to go to war, only politicians - never
soldiers. Politicians make wars - through acts of omission as much
as through acts of commission.
I believe that we wouldn't have to remember the millions who were
killed during this century if the politicians who elected themselves
and who let themselves be elected to lead the many countries
involved in the various conflicts had done their jobs conscientiously.
On this day we remember first of all World
War I. But, if there had been no World War I, there would have been
no Russian Revolution, no Stalin, no Hitler, no World War II, no
Korean War, nor many of the other conflicts.
And what was World War I about? Saving
democracy? Ridding the world of a mad dog of a dictator? No, none of
those admirable and necessary things we talk about on Remembrance
Day have anything to do with World War I!
World War I was a mistake made by foolish
politicians in Austria, Russia, and Germany in response to an act of
Serbian terrorism. And it was an act of omission by the vainglorious
leaders of Britain and France who refused to do what was necessary
to defuse the situation because they thought they had the right to
control the world.
So, today we have to remember that millions of human beings died
miserable deaths because of a few stupid old men in 1914. And death
is never glorious, no matter how beautiful the poetry or the
monuments! Only life can be glorious! That's what we must always
And, we must, at all cost, remember to keep our politicians in