In an astonishing piece titled, "No more remembrance days – let’s consign the 20th century to history," UK Guardian columnist Simon Jenkins declares that memorializing the past doesn't seem to be accomplishing anything except keeping old tensions, feuds, conflicts, and resentments alive. So Britain needs to jettison all that baggage from the past and make a fresh start.
"Enough of Remembrance Day," writes Jenkins. "The wars of the 20th century are beyond the experience of the overwhelming majority of Britons," so "[w]e really ought to get over it. Next year we should draw down the curtain and have a Forgetting Day, a Move On Day, a Fresh Start Day."
Nationalizing or collectivizing grief about war causes it to lose meaning, he argues, so Remembrance Day is reduced to just "another charity event."
Jenkins claims he has "a passion for history and am shocked at how badly it is taught." We don't disagree with that. Here in America also, too many students "don't know much about history," as Sam Cooke sang. But then Jenkins goes on to say that learning the lessons of history seems to be pointless anyway, since 1) we keep repeating history's failures, and 2) the moments we honor are simply "excuses for fake history" as defined by the victors.
For example, "I was brought up to regard VE Day as when 'we' defeated Hitler. Russia defeated Hitler; we helped."
Britain's fixation with the two World Wars serves no purpose but to keep alive "old antagonisms" and "distort Britain’s defence budget."
"We should not be remembering, but forgetting," he declares in a thesis so outrageous one suspects the entire article is mere clickbait. "Almost all the conflicts in the world are caused by too much remembering: refreshing religious divisions, tribal feuds, border conflicts, humiliations and expulsions. Why else but for memory does Sunni fight Shia or Hindu fight Muslim? India and Pakistan seem unable to get over memories of Partition. What ancient grievances motivated Myanmar’s viciousness against the Rohingya?"
Does he seriously believe that these conflicts would simply dry up if only the antagonists stopped holding onto past resentment?
Jenkins quotes Jorge Luis Borges as saying that “The only vengeance and the only forgiveness is in forgetting.” Then he unleashes this jaw-droppingly offensive bit of stupidity: "Donald Trump’s feud with Islam is a product of the fanatical memorialism that still surrounds 9/11."
Trump’s feud with Islam? Is Jenkins unaware that America has been "feuding" with Islam since the Iranian Islamic Revolution of 1979, if not since Thomas Jefferson and the Barbary Coast pirates? Is he actually suggesting that if only America would drop its "fanatical memorialism" of the 9/11 attacks that Islamic supremacism would cease to be a problem? Is he unaware that Muslims have carried out (or had thwarted) many, many terrorist attacks on America and American interests since 9/11 -- not because we insist on flying Old Glory on 9/11 anniversaries but because Islamic fundamentalists have declared war on us? This is one of the most idiotic statements The Guardian has ever published, and that's saying a lot.
Jenkins then cites South Africa's attempt to find "closure" through its “truth and reconciliation” commission, and asks, "Can Britain not find closure on the 20th century?" "Britain," he concludes, should "move on."
Here are better ideas: stop teaching history badly and start drawing inspiration from it. Never, ever insult those who gave their lives for your country by forgetting their ultimate sacrifice. Don't pretend that tribal or sectarian conflicts that in some cases go back centuries can be resolved simply by having a "Fresh Start Day." And remember that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.