The Kenneth Mark Drain Chair in Ethics at Trent University

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Monday, November 7, 2011

Remembrance Day on November 11th

Faculty were sent the following today:
Dear Instructors,

Observation of Remembrance Day on November 11th

The Office of the Dean of Arts and Science, the Dean of the Trent-Fleming School of Nursing and the Dean of the School of Education and Professional Learning would like to encourage you and your students to honour all those who have served and continue to serve our country.

If your class is being held on November 11 at 11:00 a.m., would you please consider observing two minutes of silence during your class time to honour those who have served or continue to serve our country.

Thank you.

As it turns out, indeed my class starts at 11 am on the 11th, and I am a bit surprised to realize that I wish to observe the two minutes of silence.  What is the relationship of a newcomer to Remembrance Day? When did I become someone who saw myself as a meaningful member of a Canadian society that observes silence as a gesture of respect to past Canadian soldiers that died in battle?  I still recall last year, when I bluntly asked a guest at dinner why she and everyone else wore poppies on their lapels.  She looked surprised, and answered helpfully that it was a memorial day in Commonwealth countries to honor those service members who had died in the line of duty since WWI.  Distracted by my own embarrassment at the ignorance of my question, I felt no affective chord of responsive respect struck in me, although I immediately recognized the allusion to the poem, "In Flanders Fields," and noted the similarities between Remembrance Day and Memorial Day in the United States. 

This year the poppies have sprung back up on lapels, and I don't feel it is appropriate for me to wear one.  I do plan to observe silence in my class at 11 a.m., however.  Recognizing loss seems like something I have standing to do.  Bearing a brightly colored badge of my awareness, though, that seems misplaced.  It will be interesting to see if that changes next year.

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