There is a week or so left in the trip. We’ve been in Barcelona, Rome, Zurich, and Paris. We’ve seen everything from art, to architecture, to cathedrals, and made relevant connections between all of them. Still, this part of history that we’re seeing now is both old and new, and strangely so. A week or so is a short amount of time but when I’m in a WWI museum, the time seems like an eternity. It grows longer when we visit the battlefields, when trees almost a hundred years old fail to hide the ugly, grass-graced craters. This is a part of our heritage that I haven’t recently thought of as rssecent. You never get the full picture from your high school history teacher, all you see are just snapshots.
But there is a strange, wholly Canadian pride that you feel while standing on Vimy Ridge (even if we admit that the French and Brits softened the place up a bit first). Canadians planned it, Canadians executed it, Canadians took it and paid the price without flinching. And I happen to be Canadian.
At the same time, this ridge, these museums and the monuments are hammering home the reality and the rawness of this war. It really wasn’t that long ago that humans declared the Great War to be the final war and that it could not happen again.
The reality is that the war did happen, and I guess I’m left wondering if something so unthinkable will come knocking on my door or the door of my children when the scars fade enough to resemble an untouchable memory of the past, like Rome or Greece.
So that leaves me – what can I do to keep it from ever happening again? It doesn’t have to be big. I just have to do whatever I’m capable of with all my heart so that someone like H.G. Wells doesn’t have to say “Every intelligent person in the world knew that disaster was impending and knew no way to avoid it.”