11 a.m., 11/11/11

I took a gamble and brought my kindergarten class to the Remembrance Day assembly today, just after 11 a.m. We had talked about it beforehand, especially the minute of silence, and I think they were excited to take the challenge. I told them I’d spoken to the principal about it, and we both believed they could handle it.

And they did. It was a long assembly, longer than advertised, but they did better than many of the older students. Even with the pep talk, I’d had my doubts… but they sat, watched, listened, stood when they were supposed to. I was amazed and so proud of them.

Remembrance Day is always a torn day for me. I am moved by the ceremonies, the songs, the children’s art, the silence. It has always made me emotional to think of the different ways people suffered, and still suffer, because of war. I am absolutely on board with remembrance as a device to promote peace. But as I’ve written before, I have major problems with indiscriminate support and awe of the armed forces, uncritical nationalism, vague and glorified talk about freedom, and what my husband (who was in the Canadian Armed Forces for several years) would call the “fetishization of the military”.

The Grade 6s this year made doves to be displayed in the gym for the assembly, along with lots of other remembrance-related art from different classes. Each dove was adorned with an original haiku by the student.

As a group, they are pretty astounding. They are full of vivid images that suggest that these students really pondered what it would have been like to participate in a World War.

I am including a few, without names, because, well… wow.

The sound of the dove
is absorbed by shouts and cries
Gunshots rattle towns

All alone, waiting
hear the silent leaves drifting
Miles away from home

not one will be fine
as soldier die mothers cry
the stars will not shine

Hear the bullets fly
Explosion in front of you
Thought that you would die

You’re in Germany
You see the surrender flag
cheer with your comrades

I am especially bowled over by that one line, written by a boy on the autism spectrum: “not one will be fine”. Such true words in five syllables. And no question about it, the mothers cry.

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6 thoughts on “11 a.m., 11/11/11

  1. emerge says:

    oh boy, those haiku made me cry. your blog is way too good at that! (um, it’s not that i cry a lot ever in real life.) I think that’s a great idea. make the kids really think about it.

    (btw – here’s the article we were talking about. it’s not long… and it’s a bit harsh, but that’s not too surprising given the topic. he basically says “just because you wear the poppy doesn’t mean you are in solidarity. you have no f***ing idea what it was like to be in the Great War, and you’re only wearing the poppy as a response to social pressure, in order to fit in.”) http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/fisk/robert-fisk-do-those-who-flaunt-the-poppy-on-their-lapels-know-that-they-mock-the-war-dead-6257416.html

  2. CG says:

    Wow….when you read those, you realize that there is still so much hope for the world! Thanks for posting them, and thank those amazing students! Also, Big High Fives for your Kindergartners. I totally applaud teaching them early. I took M to rememberance service Guelph, and endured, despite the RUDE glances of people appalled I would take a 2 year old! Way to go Di!

    • diblog says:

      CG… I can’t believe you’re reading right now!! Thank you for your comments – hope you and the family are doing great!

  3. Mama says:

    There was talk in Ottawa MM about the difficulty for Quakers in Remembrance Day. (There was a White Poppy commemoration service on Parliament Hill on Friday, where ALL the casualties of war were remembered: the nurses, the ambulance drivers, the civilians, the children, the foe…). I am going to send the clerk your blog address to share with others.

    I was on the train headed for Toronto at 11 a.m. Friday. The doors had opened in Clarkson and people were moving along the platform to and from the train, when a voice came over the speakers: “Ladies and gentlemen, it is 11 a.m. Would you please take a moment of silence to remember those who have died for their countries in war.” or words to that effect. And that effect was that everybody instantly stood still and that full minute of silence was observed – whether the silent people really cared or not. I found it strangely moving, as though it stood as much for respecting each other as for remembering the dead.

    • diblog says:

      I hope the White Poppy is being well-received. That’s the part I feel is most important: the idea that it’s NOT OKAY to do this war thing.
      I like the idea of people standing silently, all together – there are not that many moments that can inspire silence in large groups of strangers. I’m in favour of that respect for the moment – wherever it comes from.

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