I stood on Canadian ground yesterday.
France dedicated the Vimy Ridge land to Canada to erect a monument to Canadian soldiers who fell in the Great War. The monument itself is beautiful, and how Veteran’s Affairs Canada chose to arrange the park and historical site was very tasteful.
Informative, interesting, very respectful of the events that took place there.
The rolling green grass from exploded ammunition; grazing sheep; damp errie tunnels and sun soaked trenches. The Austrian pines covered the once barren battlefield with a cool shade and brought to mind an idyllic Sunday afternoon scene. Hard to image the horrors that took place here along the 20km front.
Every part of the experience called out to that portion of my soul that I believe makes me Canadian.
But, I’m a pacifist. And, discussing with others later I realized it wasn’t the glory for country (dulce et decorum est) but the sympathy for my neighbour that drew me into the history. Vimy defined our country. It robbed us of so many brave and determined men. We took the front and the front took our sons, our brothers, our future fathers/bankers/farmers/Prime Ministers…etc.
I don’t want a war to define my country. I don’t want to fall into the belief that it brings honour. I respect the men and boys who fought but…there is a French quote from the Protestant Museums that says when you kill a man you don’t kill an ideology you simply kill a man.
What did WWI accomplish, and even WWII? Land was gained, but to what avail? Nazism is still alive in Germany, did we truly defeat it?
In fact, what is ever truly accomplished by war? But, the words, the poetry, the names from those who went. They stir my heart with pride more than any victory. Men, who in the face of fear and death, gave so much more than they could or ever intended to give.
Our country lacks a unity of identities. We have no national name to call ourselves to. I’d challenge every Canadian to come to Vimy, to stare our dead in the eyes and ask them who they want us to be.