Today’s the day for blog blast to peace. People all over the world will be blogging, tweeting and facebooking about peace, about ways to make the world a better place. What is there to say that hasn’t already been said?
This past Thanksgiving (Canadian Thanksgiving, in October), with my parents at our family cottage, after a turkey feast and a few glasses of wine, Mum and Dad started reminiscing. Dad had been reading my World War 1 novel, and the talk turned to their memories of the end of World War 2, when the soldiers began coming home. My parents were small children at the time, but two of my mother’s uncles were overseas. Both returned. Mum still has letters they wrote home during the war. They are poignant for their very ordinariness, full of questions about brothers and sisters and doings on the family’s small farm. Letters written by two young men who, in the normal run of things, would probably have never traveled outside of Canada.
In rural Nova Scotia there were no parades, no marching bands to greet them. The men came home one by one and each family welcomed them in its own way – a celebratory dinner, a round of visits to relatives. Then, life returned to its usual quiet routine, with a weight of anxiety removed, just as it does now when soldiers come home from Iraq and Afghanistan. But for each soldier and each family, life is permanently altered. The person who comes home is not the person who went to war.
One of my great-uncles was in Holland at the war’s end. He couldn’t say much in his letters and, according to my mother, he never spoke of his experiences, but they left him so badly shaken that he never recovered. I think he might have been involved in the liberation of some of the concentration camps, and he just couldn’t process what he saw there.
We tend to think of war as tragedy on a large scale. Perhaps peace would be easier to achieve if we remembered more often that war is really thousands of personal tragedies woven together. Maybe that’s the way to make ‘never again’ a reality.