It was only a few days ago that I passed through Vimy, France. My route, as I have noted before, has had the uncanny tendency of passing through areas of France that are seeped in the history of World War one and two. Perhaps Canada's most well know war memorial is found at Vimy.
As a Canadian passing through so close, I couldn't help but make a pilgrimage there.
The monument at Vimy is moving, vast and imposing in its bare, yet grand simplicity. Vimy was the site of a decisive Canadian battle in which thousands died. The names of 16,000 soldiers are written all around the base of the monument.
It is a moving place. Today, as bells ring, and as flowers are laid all over the world, it is a moment to remember. To remember the sacrifice of so many and the enormity of it all.
Standing at the monument, I couldn't help but think, that despite the undoubted value in not forgeting the tragedy, that there is something amiss. I have seen perhaps too many war monuments in the last month. I wasn't able to put my finger on it, until, cycling away from Vimy, a flat tire forced me to pull over by a tree on the side of the road. There, I discovered a small monument, evidently erected shortly after the war.
Roughly translated the monument reads: "For Our Liberty and Your Liberty, Here two valiant French Shooters were gunned down by Fascist Hitlerites". It was then, on this extreme version of a monument, that it hit me. Subtly, unintentionally even, the monuments and the ceromonies that remember the wars of the past, perpetuate the same fundamental divisions that are at the root of wars and conflicts.
Veteran cemeteries are set aside by nationality here in France. The Canadians buried here, the Americans there, the Germans, way over there. The very same divisions on which the soldiers lost their lives are preserved in their deaths.
Remembering how terrible war can be, is important. Yet, if we really do not want it to happen again, we must do more than remember along the lines of battle. We must remember above and beyond those divisions. Indeed we must erase those very lines.