Today is a day for reflection. A day for remembering. A day for sharing. Hopefully it's also a day for openness, respectfulness, and tolerance. Even more I hope it's a day for questioning not only the meaning of war, but also of the meaning of public memory. While I explored some of these themes last year, I'd like to focus now on the aforementioned talk of heroes.
This issue has been controversial for some time, but recently Andrew Dreschel of the Hamilton Spectator claimed that Cirillo was no hero. In the article Dreschel points out that hero was a title given posthumously to promote an "accidental" victim. Taking pains to note that the situation is tragic and that Cirillo is deserving of respect and attention, he questions the use of the word hero:
"The accolade traditionally isn't bestowed for simply wearing a uniform... The honour is accrued by performing brave deeds and daring feats — risking or sacrificing your life to save others. Cirillo may have possessed those heroic qualities and might even have had a chance to display them had he lived. But he didn't"
The point was not made to be disrepectful, but, like I mentioned above, in the vein of talking about the meaning of public memory.
Are members of the Canadian Forces heroes by default?
What exactly constitutes heroism or a heroic act?
Is Remembrance Day for heroes, or is it more global in scope?
Who else in our society deserves to be remembered for their struggles? Should they get as much attention from the state, the media, and the public?
I don't actually have any answers — just more questions. After an intimate ceremony at my school, during which a Canadian soldier recounted his experience in Afghanistan, I asked my students to write a reflexion about the importance of remembering, and again more specifically, who to remember. I look forward to reading their responses as much as I look forward to reading yours.