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Sunday, November 11, 2012

On the wrong side of Remembrance

Today when the girls were putting on their poppies to go to the Remembrance Day service Suki asked why we had to wear poppies. Hannah told her it was because soldiers fought for Canada. This is the simplistic view of what the poppy can and should stand for; a view that as she grows older she may find difficult to reconcile with her Japanese heritage.

 I explained that the poppy was for soldiers on all sides of the war. The soldiers who Canadians fought against were no more evil then our own soldiers; they didn't want to kill people, they didn't want to die. I told her that Japan was in the war—this is something that, in this country, we don't talk much about—the war in the Pacific. I told her that the war was started by rulers not by soldiers and that soldiers had to follow the instructions of the rulers or would be killed by their own people.

She wanted to know why the rulers wanted to go to war. I showed her a world map and described the wide spheres of influence both Germany and Japan had in the early 1940s and explained to her that they wanted all the land they could get and so sent their soldiers to invade other countries.

She wanted to know if Baba and Jiji (her grandparents in Japan) were in the war. They weren't but their fathers were as far as I know. Many Japanese don't talk much about the war but I did have some conversations with my in-laws about it while I was in Japan. They were young children during the war and were evacuated to the country-side where they were reduced to eating bugs and grass due to lack of supplies. They showed me pictures of their fathers who were in military uniform. I was too polite or cowardly to ask what had happened to those stern-faced men. Men that would be forever linked to my family. Men whose crimes or bravery would never known to me.

 It's odd to feel that some part of you is the enemy. That on Remembrance Day people are remembering their victory over your people. I hope that when people are remembering the sacrifices of their soldiers they also remember soldiers are commanded by their political masters.

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