let there be light


Today is Remembrance Day. I have mixed feelings about this day. On one hand, I think of the awful cost of war, the sacrifice of so many lives, when dreams are crushed and lands laid waste. I think of the war movies I have seen — ranging from Gallipoli to Das Boot — and the almost daily news stories of ongoing conflict, the death of soldiers and civilians, and the hurts borne by those who have returned. We remember them.

On the other hand, I think of the machinery of war. The frequency of violent clashes around the world guarantees a thriving market for weapons and all the supplies needed to maintain conflict. Our culture continually markets war games of all kinds and models violence — and winning by violent means — as desirable and praiseworthy.

How can we remember the sacrifice of war without praising it? How can we work for peace and conflict resolution without dishonouring those who must fight on our behalf when words are not enough? I don’t know the answer, but think it would make a difference if leaders and ordinary citizens could resist the paranoid “us” vs “them”propaganda, begin to recognize strangers as neighbours, and find a neutral space where we can look into each other’s eyes without fear.

Let there be light,
let there be understanding,
let all the nations gather,
let them be face to face.
– Frances W. Davis

Photo taken on October 11, 2010


10 thoughts on “let there be light

  1. Let there be light,
    let there be understanding,
    let all the nations gather,
    let them be face to face.
    – Frances W. Davis

    Words to live by, for sure. I don’t have any answers either, and not much hope either, for that matter.

    Who would openly state that he/she WANTS war?! Not many, and still they’re always ongoing.

    ‘The War on Terror’…who wins? Who do you surrender to?

    I’ve never played video games, but once I looked at two guys playing in a store [XBox]. It looked like Baghdad or something, and the fighting was down to street level. Very realistic. Young people playing these types of games must get their sense of reality rather screwed up. Scary.

    • Thanks for your thoughtful response, Rebekah. You’re right that not many people would say they’re in favour of war. Maybe war is like one of those nasty opt-out billing systems, where you have to actively say no to avoid being stuck with it.
      “The War on Terror” — that’s almost funny, isn’t it. Considering how it’s gone so far, maybe it should be rephrased: “the big impervious Wall to keep out Terror”. Except, of course, Terror is no more an outsider than Fear or Doubt or the Boogeyman. Still, “Freedom from Fear” would make a great campaign slogan!
      The video games may look super realistic, compared to the violent Bugs Bunny cartoons and Grimm’s Fairy Tales I grew up with, but I doubt the kids think it’s real. But maybe violence happens when you take something you know to be a fantasy, and act it out in the real world. Like “cowboys and Indians”, somebody always has to be the bad guy.

  2. The more fear ‘they’ install in us, the more the other ones win. For each new, little security check added to the general hassle of travelling, he wins little victories.

    I do believe, that IF violence has to be pictured, it should be as realistic as ever possible. In movies with like Schwarzenegger, Stallone and the likes, where they punch the life out of someone who’s down, and then he gets up and fights again with the intestines more or less hanging outside in a package … I don’t know. I don’t think that’s good for small children who don’t have a reflective mind yet.

    • What you’ve said about realistic — as opposed to cartoon — violence makes a lot of sense, Rebekah. It reminds me of the way David Cronenberg was deliberate in showing the real awfulness and impact of violence in his movie A History of Violence (which I haven’t seen, but it’s on my list when I feel brave enough)… he lets us cheer for the good guy (go get ’em!), but then “we shrink in horror when Cronenberg forces us to contemplate the grisly mess we’ve made.” (Stephen Cole/Globe & Mail)

  3. I read this and know what you mean — I grew up in a working class town where many of the boys I went to high school with went off to the military. And I have a cousin right now in Afghanistan. I feel guilty if I say I’m a war supporter because then I think of my family and what they believe they are doing for our country. I also spent 6 months in Osijek, Croatia, which was deeply affected by the ’90s Balkan wars. I don’t think people understand the capacity of destruction that war brings. It leaves emotional scars that take a lifetime to heal.

    Thank you for sharing such a brave post.

    • You’re right, Lisa, in a way the whole soldier-propaganda campaign is designed to make you feel guilty if you don’t wave the yellow flag. And it works. I don’t mind supporting the troops, but I don’t like being told it’s a black-and-white situation. As you say, it’s not.

      Your experience in Croatia must have been life-changing. I can only imagine.

  4. Nice photo to highlight your remarks, Eyegillian. You got lots of thoughtful responses. I think you can support ‘Our Troops” without supporting the war in Afghanistan. The troops just go where they are sent, after all.
    In Ottawa on Remembrance Day a group tried to lay a wreath of white poppies to symbolize the hope for peace and they took a lot of abuse, but I think it’s a good thought.
    As we gallop through the planet’s resources and population continues to explode, it seems likely there will be much more conflict in the future.

    • Hope for peace… that is a good thought, barefootheart. Why is it that people have to feel so threatened when you present another point of view? I’m sure, as you say, Support Our Troops does not equate with Abuse All Others.

      Re the depletion of earth’s resources: I’m afraid you are (or will be) right.

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