My family has not lived separate from civil society for several generations and, my uncle's protestations notwithstanding, we are citizens of nation states and carry their passports. We mostly even vote in elections. We discuss politics, send our children to public school (sometimes), write letters to our MPs, and sign petitions. Some of us attend rallies and support lobbying efforts. There are even some Mennonite Members of Parliament, though none I am particularly proud of. The point is: most of us in Canada have given up thinking of ourselves as anything but part of the Canadian civil society. Instead of standing apart from the nation, we have stepped in and shouldered at least some of our civic responsibility. This doesn't mean we have to be patriots.
When I was a child in the 70s and an adolescent in the 80s, Canada was not at war. Every year, we acknowledged Remembrance Day in our schools with talk of the horrors of WWI, the looming likelihood of nuclear war, and petitions for disarmament. In Church, we celebrated the conscientious objectors among us, the Vietnam draft dodgers, and the young people who went off to march in protests. In my Mennonite high school, we watched If You Love this Planet in chapel and discussed The Day After in English class. Recognizing the link between patriotic fervour and war, among ourselves, we disputed things like whether we ought to stand for the national anthem, or wear a poppy on Remembrance Day. We used to be able to discuss these things.
By the time my kids were in school in the 2000s, Remembrance Day had shifted. The world wars became about honour and freedom -- the horrors of the trenches and of Hiroshima disappearing from mention, replaced with a new devotion to a pretty version of history that pretended that sacrifices were needed and willingly made all for the greater good. As if WWI was about freedom, and WWII a measure to prevent the Holocaust. We all must know that, if we had only opened our doors to refugees, we would have saved the lives of far more of the Holocaust's victims than we did by going to war. Remembrance Day ought to be a day of collective guilt and shame, when we recognize as a people that we have failed so often to resolve our conflicts without bloodshed, that we have let ourselves be ruled by outrage instead of compassion, and by shortsighted fear. We have forgotten the important things and bandy about Lest We Forget without any sense of irony. For almost a century, we remembered the end of WWI with a pledge to at least try for "Never Again.". Now, we don't even try. Instead, we pretend that war is worth it. Remembrance Day? Hardly. Pretendance Day, more like it.
But I remain a pacifist. It feels futile, especially at this time of the year, when my neighbours are busy ascribing nobility to meaningless deaths and acts of aggression. But I will make myself a cocktail to make the despair a little more palatable. A pacifist. It's a nice little drink, with no lies or pretense -- just rum, brandy, lemon and the honesty of raspberry. This is a drink for Remembrance Day. It doesn't taste of war; it tastes of the hope for peace.
1 oz white rum (fair trade if you have it)
1 oz fine brandy
1 oz of raspberry syrup*
a squeeze or two of a lemon
- Fill your cocktail shaker half full with ice cubes. If you don't have a cocktail shaker, you could probably get away with any sealable container.
- Add the rum, brandy, raspberry syrup and lemon
- Shake until nicely chilled
- Strain into a cocktail glass
- Garnish with a raspberry
*Raspberry syrup: cook about a lb of raspberries with a bit of water. Strain, discarding the pulp and holding onto the liquid. Return to heat and add 3/4 cup sugar to taste. Boil and cook down a bit, until syrupy.