A front-page editorial from the Nov. 10, 1939 edition of The Silhouette discussing Armistice Day and the conflict of the day: WWII. (Click to enlarge.)

One of the tensest moments of my first year at McMaster didn’t happen when I was writing exams, or fighting with my roommate, or handing in a late assignment. It happened on Nov. 11 when I was sitting in the basement lecture hall of Togo Salmon.

The professor was lecturing straight through the 10:30 a.m. class. When 11:00 a.m. rolled around, the time traditionally reserved as a minute of silence in respect for those affected by war – through combat or collateral, a student raised her hand. “Shouldn’t we stop lecture for a minute right now?” she said, and outlined her case: that would be the most respectful thing to do.

There was a long, awkward silence. Then, the professor said no. I don’t remember her reason; it was long and convoluted, and very passionately against recognizing the moment. But then the student argued back, and more students jumped in, until finally, several minutes past the 11:00 a.m. mark, the room lapsed into 60 seconds of awkward silence.

While that particular minute was spent more in embarrassed quiet for the uncomfortable circumstances than in thoughtful contemplation, it has come back to me every November since, as I dwell on war and peace, Remembrance Day, poppies, and everything this time represents.

The squabbles of that morning seem petty in comparison to what it was viagra jelly like to be on campus in the war-torn days of yesteryear.

There was a time on McMaster’s campus when the impact of war was not a once-a-November focus, but rather a daily occurrence. Old Sil headlines from World War II call for blood donors during a European shortage. In desperation, they appealed to women to donate, as men were traditionally the exclusive donor group.

One front-page article from Nov. 3, 1944 warned that the military status of all male students would now be checked, and “every student must have on his person at all times either a postponement, a discharge, or a rejection paper.” If it was found that any men were “unable to produce these necessary qualifications, their names will be turned in to N.M.R.A. immediately. Within a few days they will receive their military call-up.” (The N.M.R.A. was the National Resources Mobilization Act, which recorded and policed conscripted Canadians for military service at home and abroad.)

The paper from that time period is also peppered with lists of fallen alumni and students. It serves as a sombre reminder for all we take for granted today as students.

For the first time in several years, I’ll be in a position to actually attend a Remembrance Day morning ceremony. But if you’re in lecture (and whether or not your professor pauses), at work, at home or elsewhere, I still encourage you to stop what you’re doing for a moment. Not to glorify war but to be thankful for all that we have today, the people we owe that to, and what we want tomorrow to be.

 

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