Friday, July 19, 2024


At the regular public meetings of MRC Pontiac’s Council of Mayors, there is a section of the agenda dedicated to mayors providing updates on current and upcoming events and activities in their respective municipalities.
In the October meeting, a common theme was the plans they are making for Remembrance Day. While most plan commemorations to take place at the usual time of 11 a.m. on Saturday November 11, a few will hold their ceremonies at different times and, in some cases, on different days.
Regardless of the day and time of the various ceremonies, the focus will be on remembrance. We will assemble at war memorials in towns throughout the Pontiac, as people will do across the country. We will lay wreaths. Small troops of soldiers will march in formation, salute, fire rifles. Elderly people will arrive, some with canes, some with walkers, some in wheel chairs, determined, whatever it takes, to be there. Clergy will give sermons. The Last Post will ring out from trumpets. We will wear poppies, recite prayers and observe moments of silence.
We will think about people we’ve known who have fought in wars, people who slogged their way across muddy, bloody fields in Europe, sailed ships across the Atlantic or flew planes across the Channel on missions over Europe. People who manufactured munitions, carried injured combatants to safety, operated field hospitals, repaired aircraft for yet another mission, or performed any number of other activities ranging from menial to horrifying. People who together formed a war effort from which millions returned home forever marked by the experience, if they returned home at all.
These are the rituals that form our remembrance of something unimaginably horrific that actually happened, however difficult it may be for us to imagine in our privileged, safe lives. Rituals that form our remembrance of the people who were prepared to sacrifice everything for something that should be important to all of us who are fortunate enough to be alive today and able to do the remembering.
But do we actually remember what all of this was and continues to be about? Do we remember what it was that collided on those battlefields in Europe?
On one side was the freedom to speak your mind and the right to choose who will govern you and ensure they do so transparently in order to be accountable to the people. On the other were authoritarians who operated in secrecy, whose motives and methods could not be challenged as they were not even known by the people they governed, where the absence of transparency enabled tyranny, where expressions of dissent were life-threatening.
Do we remember, when asked who would go to that muddy field in Europe to make a stand, why our parents and grandparents raised their hands?

Charles Dickson


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