Remembrance Today : Poppies, Grief and Heroism by Harrison, Ted
Reaktion Books ,15 November 2012
Hardback, 256 pages
Every nation has its own way of remembering those killed in conflict. Each November Remembrance follows a seemingly unchanging pattern: millions of people wear poppies and two minutes' silence is observed at war memorials around the world. Today young people are taught that through Remembrance we thank those who gave their lives to defend our liberty and freedom, and show support for members of today's armed services. But when poppy-wearing started after the First World War it had a rather different purpose: the flowers of Flanders Field were worn to express grief and to declare that war should never happen again. Remembrance throws up questions that demand to be answered but are too often ignored: What does it mean to be heroic? What, in the military context, does glory mean? But most fundamental of all - what is the purpose of Remembrance? Is it to honour and thank the fallen, those who gave their lives in wars? To give comfort to those who mourn their loss? If Remembrance does not serve as a warning against war, a reminder to the nation to rededicate itself to peace, then, Harrison argues, it is a sanctimonious and futile waste of time.
Proposing a return to the original ideals of Remembrance, and suggesting many changes to the modern-day spectacle, Remembrance Today is a powerful polemic on how our ideas of heroism, duty and grief have lost their way which calls for a refocusing of Remembrance from its current divisive tradition to a more uniting and appropriate observance.