But how can we remember? My great-grandfather died in that war; he never met his son, my grandfather, who fought in the next one and died a few months ago. My links to him are tenuous, at best: A few photographs (quite literally “faded to yellow / in a brown leather frame”), some old documents, a family tree. But even if he had survived the War, it seems unlikely that I would have met him, at least as an adult or teenager. The past fades away. All we can do is to hope that the lessons don’t. Perhaps Europe has managed that much, at least. We broke our own civilisation to do it, but there is an entire continent now that has a real horror of war, and is actively striving to avoid it. I can only hope they will succeed. Alas, it takes only one to make a quarrel.
In the United States, this is “Veterans’ Day”, not “Remembrance Day”. I like the English version better. It is a fine thing to be patriotic, and to send a thought to the people fighting for our causes. But I do not think we need many special reminders of that. There is always some skirmish on our far-flung battlefields, some occasion to think of our living troops and give them a mental nod of recognition and honour. It is not so easy to be reminded of the dead. I think we need that all the more.