Are we still remembering Remembrance Day?

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By the time you read this it will be November 11th, a day in which the whole nation remembers, at the eleventh hour, the end of conflict and hostilities of the great wars in which this country has been very much a part of. The day traditionally has held the utmost respect upon the yearly calendar, but today’s society very much begs the question: have we forgotten the importance of Remembrance Day?
Present day media are endlessly publicising stories regarding Remembrance Day and its ever-changing appearance in the eyes of the general public. Some news sources choose to show the unwavering dedication to the act of Remembrance, with affectionate displays of respect from mass gatherings of people at ceremonies up and down the country. In the same breath, however, much of today’s headlines surrounding Remembrance Day are dominated by tales of individuals and organisations taking a political stance regarding remembrance and choosing to distance themselves from it.

A London student online newspaper recently ran a story documenting how the Senate of London University had “passed a motion prohibiting its officers and staff from attending the University’s remembrance service if they claimed to be representing the University as an organisation.” Such steadfast decisions like these clearly open up a controversial divide between the organisation’s prerogative and what, generally speaking, would be perceived to be “morally right.” It would be difficult to argue against the point that in a modern day society where political and religious stance can be controversial, Remembrance Day is now looked upon with much more vigour than simply paying respect to war veterans of the past.

Further evidence of this can be seen when looking into the sporting world and the English premier league. At this time of the year, the majority of top-flight English football teams choose to emblazon the synonymous Remembrance Day red poppy upon their shirts for the fixtures surrounding November 11th. However, much controversy was caused in recent seasons when certain high profile clubs, namely Manchester United, decided they would go against this generally collaborative gesture and ensured that their shirts remained poppy-free. The flames of this fire were again stoked, as recently as November 2012, when Sunderland’s Republic of Ireland international midfielder James McClean publicly expressed his desire against wearing a poppy despite being the only player on the field not to do so.

Events like these make it very hard to observe Remembrance Day for what it really is: a gathering of all walks of society coming together to remember those who have lost their lives in service to their country. In the cases of sporting teams’ and individuals’ defiance to support the cause, one can’t help but sense the dramatisation placed upon the subject, particularly by the media, using the social status of others along with the negative connotations that comes with Remembrance Day in order to stir up a frenzy.

Turning attention to the student population, one intriguing question often posed is how many younger people in fact feel the importance of Remembrance Day itself. In answering this, it also draws upon the notion of whether Remembrance Day is suffering as a result of the generations it directly concerned, those during wartime England, coming to the end of their days. In the next decade, a sound estimation dictates that an increasingly lesser number of surviving war veterans will remain. Without these direct links back to the main events that fundamentally structure Remembrance Day itself, it can be confidently assumed that some form of transition in how remembrance is perceived must occur. In conjunction with this, the fact that a large majority of Remembrance Day services are held in church may also be a bearing factor. WhyChurch.org recently conducted a survey revealing a decline in church-goers over the past five years, noting a particular drop in those of student age. These two combining factors, a generation that cannot directly associate with Remembrance Day and a decline in attendance to Church ceremonies, could neatly go hand-in-hand to see an overall changing attitude.

Only time will tell when it comes to truly judging whether the importance of Remembrance Day is still appreciated. Yet with constant negative media stories and individuals distancing themselves from the event, it doesn’t bode well for what has historically been seen as one of the most important days of the yearly calendar. It would be a travesty for the values of November 11th to be lost.

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