Lest We Forget (and with thanks)

To date, to Canadians, to Commemorate:

Remembrance Day, poppy, Canada, veterans, peacekeeping, ISIS, ISIL, WWII, WWI, Korean War, Yugo, Yugoslavia, Somalia

The Great War, the War to End All Wars, the First World War, World War I: 1914-1918
17 Main Players, et al…

This War started out one foot at the end of the Napoleonic period, and ended with the other firmly striding into modernity.

Note there were three empires – British, Austro-Hungarian, and Ottoman – this was their last knell.

But it did not end all wars, and merely set the tone for the next.

The Second World War, World War II: 1939-1945
35 Main Players, of whom many asserted their nationhood on the world stage, out of the shadow of their parent empire.

It was during this War, in Poland, that one grandfather was killed by the Nazis, at the age of 24. The other grandfather fought with the Polish partisans, and watched his best friend’s head get blown off by a sniper.

No more empires, but an attempt at empire-building, thankfully waylaid.

Attempts at extermination.

Affirmations that humans can be superbly evil; affirmations that humans can also be sublimely good.

The Korean War: 1950-1953
The UN had its first command at this particular theatre. The UN, sprung whole out of the minds of war-weary leaders, like Athena from the head of Zeus.

The Koreas are still at war; North Korea put a cross on the old Armistice a few years back anyhow. Air raid sirens toll periodically throughout Seoul to remind diligent citizens to be on edge.

We sent out sons and daughters as UN Peacekeepers, to Kashimir (1948), Cyprus (1974 to date), Congo (various, 1960 to date), Somalia, Yugoslavia (1992-2003) and Somalia (1993), making them live the horrors of war without being able to keep the peace.

The UN Peacekeepers were honoured with a Nobel Peace Prize in 1988. Recognition, in the face of flying bullets, that can only be dodged, not returned.

Then there were the Iraq Wars, first (1990) and second (2003-2011), and then the Afghanistan War (2001-2014).
What does one say to something so recent. We always thought that our modern world was too civilized to have to deal with War, and, indeed, modern Wars seem far removed from our doorstep, here in Canada, in North America really.

We are not Europe, forced to deal with a wholly new kind of refugee crisis, one where the refugees are empowered by information and globalization.

And yet, I am so proud to support Canadian soldiers who are sent to deal with the kinds of people (can you call ISIS/ISIL that?) who think it perfectly acceptable to stone people, to hurl individuals from the roofs of multi-storey buildings, to decapitate persons, and to condone slavery. Somewhere, out in ISIL territory, some secret clan is gathering, trying to find out new ways of instilling fear and horror in the local populations and around the world.

I am glad that there are Canadians, and others, who are doing their damnedest, on our behalves, to stop the spread of such rabid fanaticism.

Lest we forgot the past, so that we can understand why we are doing what we are doing in the present, in our best effort to stave off potential horrors in the future.

And this it is that I say to all Canadian veterans, old and new, and to those Canadians still serving: thank you.

Wearing Poppies Early

poppyA colleague of mine recently provided me with a lovely life lesson to remember our fallen. She was wearing a red poppy, a full two weeks ahead of Remembrance Day, before the Royal Canadian Legion has even put out poppy boxes on every corner, and before Hallowe’en. This was a good kind of early start on a national holiday, completely antithetical to usual appearance of Christmas decorations at Costco in August.

Her rationale? Why do we only wear poppies for the week leading up to Remembrance Day? We should be wearing that symbolic red of Flanders Fields, from World War I, with a good lead in to a day that all Canadians should honour, not as just a day off of work or school, but a day to pay homage to those men and women who have sacrificed their lives, both in life and in death, to ensure that we can keep living the easy life.

We are lucky to have first world problems here in Canada and, frankly, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I won the birth lottery the day I was born in Vancouver. I didn’t have to struggle through refugee camps and tangled immigration tape like my grandparents, or have to learn new languages, like both my parents. I didn’t have to deal with racism, poverty, or want. I not only have a high school education, but an university one and, on that note, not one, but two university degrees; I can collect degrees like crackerjack prizes. I have the privilege of voting, of speaking my mind, of taking a sick day off of work without being penalized, of expressing myself in any which way, and of having food on my table. I can throw away food that doesn’t look good or turn up my nose at carbs. I can choose to not take modern medication because I can soapbox about the evils of pharmaceuticals. I can rage on the road behind the wheel of my car. I can toss a shirt when it goes out of fashion.

I have.

I have because of the good fight fought by people like my grandfather in World War II Poland, people like the thousands of Canadian and other Allied soldiers who lost their lives in the First and Second World Wars, people like Cpl. Nathan Cirillo and WO Patrice Vincent.

I’m not sure if Vincent saw any action overseas, and I’m certain Cirillo had not, as he was just embarking on his military career, but both had put their lives on the altar of my country, and died on that altar. I am so proud of both these sterling soldiers, and the many unsung thousands who slog through anonymity until such tragedies strike at our very core; only then do we learn their names.

My colleague was right to wear the poppy early.

I dug out last year’s poppy, held with a little Canada flag pin, and put it on the collar of my coat. I’ll wear it the next few weeks, and past November 11, to honour those who lived in war and in peace, and those who died in war and peace, and be thankful that they did it so the rest of us could go about our daily minutiae, living our lives blissfully ignorant of the troubles that this world really has to offer. But at least we can remember, and not just for one day.

Do You Remember Where You Were: Ottawa Shooting

shooting_CBCI remember the frozen moment,
Sitting at my desk, opening up Explorer
to dial in to Drive online
And get my fix of Radio 2 Morning.
I thought I’d check out the news,
To see if anything interesting was happening.

OTTAWA PARLIAMENT HILL SHOOTING: LIVE UPDATES
What the hell? In my country?
My little big Canada,
Our National War Memorial?
A radical nut, inspired by hate and rage,
Decided to shoot a student reservist:
Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, father, son, friend,
Dead, as it turned out, later that afternoon,
From massive injuries sustained
When shot at close range.
Rest in Peace, soldier,
Your country mourns.
I mourn.

Shocking. My heart raced,
As I read the updates from Ottawa,
And watched the live coverage.
Chaos inside Parliament:
Police running in one direction,
Shots fired from another,
Parliamentary pedestrians ducking for cover.
One shooter, dead,
No two shooters, maybe three,
Still on the loose.

Mayhem on streets,
A city in lockdown,
Systematic searching for answers,And any lingering doubts.

Bloody hell, ISIS.
No, really, you go there.
You’ve invaded my country now,
Brought the fight inside our kitchen.
But you know what,
We’re not pacifist Canadians;
We have a long history of fighting the good fight,
Of taking the side of the righteous,
And, unlike you, our righteousness is pure,
And doesn’t involve killing innocents in the name of God.
So fuck you.

****

Sadness, at innocence lost,
And at joining that sombre club of countries,
In which terror has attempted to take hold.

Outrage, that this even happened,
That some young pups
Have been stupid enough to listen to the insane,
And have been insane enough to act on that stupidity.

Determination, and resolve,
To end fear.

Pride, in those who serve,
And give up their lives
For us to have our opinions,
Our freedoms, and our lives.

Lest We Forget.
Ottawa 10/22.