Today is Armistice Day. I wanted to mark it despite our busy committee weekend and the fact that it prevents me from joining the Remembrance Day Parade in Bridport tomorrow. I used to be quite conflicted about the poppy day symbols. I asked some friends if they were going this year and they said – “no, we are for peace, we don’t agree with war”. I think once I would have felt the same, as if the parade was “for war” somehow but I have changed my mind. I too am “for peace” and I suspect most people are when you get right down to it – especially the poor people on either side caught up in it through no fault of their own, whether soldiers or civilians. Being “for peace” does not negate the Act of Remembrance, which itself does not endorse war.
Neither Mart or I have family members that we know of who died in either world war, but when Mart’s mum died, among her things he found a simple, handmade aluminium ring with the word Ypres scratched into it. He says it brought him up short and despite not knowing where it came from, he has taken to wearing it once a year at the Remembrance Day Parade. A tangible link with the men who suffered there, in whatever way, alive or dead.
Remembrance Day gives us all a chance to remember not only those who died but those whose lives were destroyed in other ways. It also makes us think about how we work together for peace at all levels, and in any way that we can. I simply cannot understand why anyone would choose to be a soldier but I have to remember in this, as in all else, how different we are. Lack of understanding of difference can take us to dark places very quickly.
I was very pleased to hear that the Mayor of Bridport was also holding a peace ceremony after the parade. But I still want to remember those who died and those who were caught up in the horrors of war, both then and now, and to remember to work in my own small way to create peace wherever I can.
Today the world feels like a particularly dangerous place, with divisions and hatred fostered among us. We have our part to play in keeping the peace.
Ali Tebbs is on Othona West Dorset's committee and is a long-time member and a trustee of The Othona Community.