18 Nov 2015

Should we remember or forget?

In the United Kingdom Remembrance Sunday is national ritual which commemorates the contribution of British military during the two World Wars.  Remembrance Sunday is held on the second Sunday in November but due to the popularity of this event in Britain; different activities such as wearing the red poppy, gatherings, talks, television programs and documentaries start late October and last almost to the end of November every year. In Kuwait, a similar thing happens (minus the red poppy) all through the month of August to commemorate the Iraqi invasion that took place in August 1990, the sacrifices made by national and ally troops and to keep the memory of war alive in people’s hearts minds. Each country has a similar national day where celebrations and festivals take place and a feeling of patriotism prevails.

There are different reasons and theories as to why the memory of war, pain, bloodshed, violence and brutality should remain and be constantly refreshed in the minds of generation after generation, the most common one is that we (the living) must honor those who have sacrificed their lives in order for us to survive, we are humbled by those who died for our land and freedom, we must feel a sense of gratitude for those who fought so bravely as without their courage we would not be here today enjoying our most fundamental human right, freedom.

The importance of remembering (as explained above) seems to apply only on the national level of things, on the personal level, however, we are encouraged to forget negative experiences, things such as childhood trauma, pain, suffering, abuse, violence and even grief. Such memories that provoke such strong feelings we are told, can cripple us further in our lives, lead us to depression, illness and sometimes death, therefore we are constantly told to forget them, forget they ever happened; “let go of the past” we hear therapists, spiritual and enlightened people say, or “the past is a dream, it does not exist” is another common expression in the spiritual world.

But should we remember or should we forget? I don’t have the answer for this question as I am struggling with it myself, but what I do know is this; when we are bombarded on certain months of each year with national songs, TV programs, photos, films, and logos to remember a very distant, historic war, the pain, the loss and violence that war had inflicted on society as a whole, and at the exact same time we are told over and over again to forget our own personal pain, suffering and struggle it creates inside us a feeling of smallness, the sense that our personal pain is not important enough or deep enough to remember or acknowledge, unlike a war that we may have not even witnessed. We as mourners for personal loss feel pushed back to the margins of a society that continues to care for the whole but not the individual.