Halloween is tragically over and Christmas is mercifully still a ways away. We’re now entering a roughly week-long season that I like to call “Misunderstanding Remembrance Day Week.” It begins as November begins and peters out a few days before November 11th, when the internet and mainstream media loses momentum and interest.
It’s a week of chaos and pettiness on social media, of op-eds in newspapers, of blog posts (oh look, here’s one now), of call-in shows and image macros and think-pieces and hot takes and the politicization of an utterly unpolitical day.
It’s a week of poppies, bought by the truckload because they never stay attached to your jacket lapel no matter how creatively you re-engineer them. It’s a week of fighting on Facebook and via text message and over dining room tables and kitchen tables and anchors desks.
It’s a week of red vs. white poppies and ribbons of some colour or other and of general unease and I’m sick of it.
Misunderstanding Remembrance Day Week is a season devoted to policing how people remember the men and women who serve and have served this country. It’s a season of tribalism, when conservatives declare that there’s a war on veterans whenever a rare white poppy appears in the wild, when liberals declare that there’s a fetishization of war whenever an image of a soldier turns up in the media.
And it’s a week of really, truly, deeply misunderstanding Remembrance Day. Not about how we celebrate it – as long as people are celebrating it, that’s a win in my book – but about why we’re celebrating it.
We’re celebrating the people who fought, but also what they fought for. Our right to freedom, generally, but also self-determination and free expression and our freedom of belief. They fought for each other in trenches and fields and oceans and skies. They fought for the academics and conscientious objectors who kept the conscience of our country. They fought for the people who, today, would proudly display a “Support Our Troops” ribbon on their bumper, and also for those who wouldn’t.
So as we enter Misunderstanding Remembrance Day Week, consider not celebrating it at all, and instead just celebrate Remembrance Day itself. Because the way you express your remembrance carries no merit or weight at all. You get no points for telling a free-thinking adult that they’re more less patriotic for the presence or colour of poppy on their lapel. You get nothing from this occasion than the sombre but hopeful message of history, so don’t act like you can somehow win this day. Don’t pick fights in the name of those who fought for you to live in peace. Just remember.
Please, this Remembrance Day, just remember.