November 11th is a day that many countries, whether observing Veterans Day, Independence Day, Armistice Day, or Remembrance Day, stop and reflect on the sacrifices millions have made during the past century of warfare. We remember the horrors of war, the toll taken on the soldiers who fought the battles, and the anguish of their families left at home. It is a day to remind us all that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it, and given the slaughter of the past one hundred years, for all our sakes, Lest We Forget.
A video was brought to my attention today that encompasses everything for which November 11th stands. Found on Youtube, this video takes footage from the final minutes of Charlie Chaplin’s classic film, The Great Dictator, during which Chaplin delivers an impassioned speech to the masses. This speech is beautiful in its own right, but under the direction of Youtube user thelakeysisters, it becomes a breathtaking meditation on the human condition that is as inspiring as it is tear inducing. Cutting into Chaplin’s speech with images of human kind at both its best and its worst, and underscored with a haunting melody, the video reminds us all of the plight of the human condition, and that truly great things can happen when we tear down the barriers that separate us to unite for the common good. It is a moving tribute to all that humanity has accomplished, and a call to arms that there is still so much more work to be done. It may have been my eternal optimism at work, but as I watched this video with tears streaming down my face, I was reminded that great works of art can change the world, and when artists are given a platform, they can inspire us all.
And so today, on the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month, I will stand shoulder to shoulder, a poppy pinned over my heart, and give my two minutes of silence in remembrance for those who have fought and sacrificed so much for my country, and for the world at large. Every year this ritual brings me to tears, but today my tears have already been shed. Instead, I will stand in silence and remember the words of Chaplin; words that I have never before heard expressed with such eloquence. I will remember that we are all capable of rising above our hatred and brutality, of seeing the good in one another, and in doing so we can create a life that is free and beautiful and a worthwhile adventure. Today we mark the mistakes of the past with solemn remembrance, but I for one will look towards a future filled with hope.