Great Lakes Bridges Blog: Monuments and Militarism

Image of the Victoria Cross as it appears on Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstones

Image of the Victoria Cross as it appears on Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstones

by  Yolanda Weima

As the City of Kingston considers “designating an area […] as the city’s “Valour District” to commemorate the valiant military service of Kingstonians who fought and died in the First and Second World Wars”, a UK political geographer’s thoughtful response to the placement of paving stones as a public commemoration of Victoria Cross recipients in the seemed both timely and relevant. You can read PeaceQuest’s response to the proposed district here.

Megoran’s 2014 article, Celebrate the truces-because World War 1 must not be an excuse for militarism, argues that the commemoration “represents the most radical remaking of Great War commemoration for decades. It turns the emphasis from grief at a costly tragedy to lionisation of the warrior. It is a move that has more to do with the contemporary politics of militarism than with any genuine attempt to honour the memory of those who lost their lives between 1914 and 1918.”

He thoughtfully addresses how such memorialization’s can be tied to contemporary militarization. With the “valour district” the connection seems even clearer, particularly given the proximity in Kingston to present day military infrastructure and institutions.

Megoran concludes by proposing remembering the courage of those who opposed war as an alternative and counter to official militaristic memorials. The recent Peace Quest plenary and book launch discussing war resistance in Canada, and the Christmas Truce event both seem to fit the bill! Apart from events, and given the literal taking of the streets and space-taking of the valour district signing, I wonder if there are alternative commemorations that could use the space of the city in a countering manner?