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.