Forgetting the promise to never forget

Every scene, every battle described from World War I and the 40 million soldiers and civilians killed makes it one of the most horrific examples of evil.

There were Armistice services throughout Western Europe this past weekend to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.

One of the more poignant ceremonies was at Compiegne, 40 kilometres north of Paris, the site where Germany officially surrendered to the Allies on November 11, 1918.

French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel officially unveiled a new memorial acknowledging, ‘the criminal pride of the German empire died, vanquished by the free people it sought to enslave’.

Much has been written about the dividing of spoils after World War I and the virtual elimination of the German state. History repeated itself a short 20 years later.

Most historians agree the treatment of the defeated Germans after World War I led directly to the success of Adolf Hitler and another world war.

After World War II, war criminals were aggressively prosecuted but the countries of West Germany, Austria, Italy and Japan were built up rather than thrashed and humiliated.

Today Germany and France are powerful allies showing how peace after conflict can actually be achieved and sustained.

In 1970, Canada faced its own terrorism.

In October, the FLQ, Quebec’s Liberation Front, a militant part of the Quebec sovereignty movement, kidnapped British Trade Commissioner James Cross and murdered Pierre Laporte the Minister of Immigration.

Instead of warring with Quebec, successive government put time and effort into reconciling French and English interests.

Today the sovereignty movement has waned and has little support among young Quebecois. English Canadians may not like all the compromises, but if we had separated, there would have been Brexit-type economic chaos and decades of uncertainty.

In contrast, the non-compromising attitude of Spain towards their unique province of Catalonia will most likely lead to violence and a messy divorce.

Our aboriginal peoples are another example of providing accommodation to a defeated people—even though it took us more than a century to admit and start to deal with our uncomfortable past.

As truth and reconciliation progresses, schools teach First Nations history; and governments, courts and the majority show respect, there is confidence building in First Nations’ communities and among aboriginal youth.

Our history is dark and long. Progress forward will take time and patience.

In contrast, the United States of America never dealt with their racial past. White Supremacists have been emboldened by President Trump.

As a consequence, the un-United States is awash in hatred and anger with an ever-increasing likelihood that a civil conflict or even war could happen.

Because of Canada’s humble ethos, willingness to compromise, ability to admit failings, and our acceptance of people from all races, cultures, religions and sexual orientation, we still enjoy relative peace within our borders.

But that peace can be fleeting. It is frightening how many citizens, whose relatives fought and died for our freedom, are today forgetting their military forefather’s promise to never forget the lessons of the world wars.

The tongue is powerful. Hate consumes reason.

Rationalization of evil can overtake the best of people.

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