Friday, November 11, 2005

About the poppy: to the 'no disrespect intended crowd'

Via Kate at SDA: Clay McLeod writes at thetyee why he won't wear a poppy.

Clay suggests that had "the Nazis had taken over the world, we would be encouraged to celebrate that conquest on some day of observation, perhaps "honouring" the soldiers of the Fatherland and the sacrifices that they made as the Third Reich spread its "benevolent influence" over the world."

Encouraged? What a mild and innocuous word.
Does Clay really believe that we would simply be 'encouraged' to mark the victory of the Reich?

Like many other unconditional pacifists, Clay quotes a proverb to support his moral equivalency:

"Until lions have their historians, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunters."

Where this arguement falls down is that it is not just the 'hunters' (read Allies) who write history -- the lion's prey (holocaust survivors, victims of Nazi occupation, and Germans of that generation such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer) also share their stories as do the civilian internees in Japanese concentration camps. Then there are newsreels, and the meticulous records kept by the Nazis -- to suggest that history is written by the victor is ignore evidence and the eyewitness testimonials of those who suffered at the hands of the lion before he was tamed. One would expect that Clay, being a teacher, would want to explore those voices which were almost silenced by the Nazis. The people of Holland and France still commemorate and honour our soldiers' sacrifices -- but the civilians of those countries lived through war, not in the movies, not in history books -- but in the mouth of the lion. Clay can pronounce his holier-than-thou attitude from the safe and comfortable distance of thousands of miles and 60 years.

Clay says:

Let me clarify that if the purpose of Remembrance Day was to remember the suffering of almost 11 million Jewish people, Gypsy people, gays and lesbians, Jehovah's Witnesses, Polish people, Serbian people, disabled people and others who were murdered during the holocaust, I would gladly acknowledge their suffering by wearing a yellow star of David, a pink triangle, or whatever symbol was chosen to say "never again" to such atrocities.

Remembrance Day is a day set aside to honour the courageous men and women who risked their lives and died -- and who by design or by happenstance, liberated nations and races in causes that HAD NOTHING WHATSOEVER TO DO WITH THEM PERSONALLY. The sacrifice of the 'warrior' in the eyes of smug and self-righteous pacifists, is unworthy of commemoration because they had no way of knowing that the outcome of the war would mean the cessation of the slaughter in the concentration camps -- to Clay, these were simply soldiers acting for 'nationalistic' and 'political' reasons. In fact they were people taking action, at considerable risk to themselves, for no personal gain -- and as noble as the sentiments of a Ghandi are, thank God some people weren't courageous enough to march into the gas chambers alongside the Jews and disabled etc.

And it's remarkable that anyone could believe this:

(T)he poppy acts more as a rallying cry to support military solutions to the world's problems, instead of a heart-felt and genuine plea for an end to the suffering of war.

In fact Canada, a country that prides itself on peacekeeping and pacifism has been the only country to use the poppy as a symbol of remembrance until the past eight to ten years. Britain has recently adopted the symbol, but they don't have the tradition, and therefore there hasn't been the same success in introducing the poppy and establishing it as a symbol of remembrance.

To suggest that the poppy acts as a 'rallying cry' does a great disservice to all the Veterans who have worked tirelessly to ingrain the motto: "never again" into the minds of schoolchildren.

Clay summarizes WWI and determines that because that war had no noble cause, the veterans are not worthy of our honour. This day was set aside by the King and Prime Minister to remember those who fought and died for King and Country -- but it was observed by ordinary Canadians -- not because the cause had been noble and pure, but because the soldiers had endured such privation, such carnage, such violence at the hands of their politicians. This day was meant to remember the evil imposed on people by their governments and it has endured precisely because that is the sentiment evoked each year when the they play The Last Post and we pause for a moment of silence. Ordinary folk didn't glorify that war. They called it 'the war to end all wars' because they sincerely hoped it was. Through their intellectual posturing, it is people like Clay who MAKE the poppy a symbol of war - it never was that - -it is simply a token of remembrance for those poor sods who didn't really know why they were 'over there', but who never made it home. How sad that people like Clay need to twist it to suit their political agenda.

Clay then goes on to view WWII through the prism of WWI -- the Allies were to blame because of the strict sanctions placed on Germany after the Armistice. He doesn't see that the truth of this is irrelevant. Politicians and soldiers are different entities. We don't solemnly remember the politics of war, we remember the cost of war in the lives our our soldiers.

He synopsizes WWII as : a continuation of imperialist rivalries and nationalistic competition (. . .) Ask a Japanese Canadian who spent time in a WWII internment camp and whose family was stripped of its property whether his or her "freedom" was safeguarded by the efforts of Canada's soldiers. Ask one of Canada's indigenous people who, at the end of WWII, wasn't allowed to vote in elections as a result of his or her "Indian status" whether he or she felt free at the conclusion of WWII.

Not only is Clay applying modern sensibilities to an era that by its existence, taught us the injustice of these policies, he is confusing politics with principle and judging soldiers and veterans in place of their governments.

I don't refuse to wear a poppy to criticize the efforts of individual soldiers . . . who fought - and died - . . . believing that they defended and fought for noble goals. I respect their spirit of duty, sacrifice and dedication to causes that they saw as greater than themselves. I refrain from wearing a poppy to criticize the use of military force, at the expense of soldiers, civilians and their families, by the state - any state - in order to achieve political goals, no matter how noble. Remembrance Day usurps the sacrifices made by individuals and conscripts those sacrifices in the name of nationalism - a divisive cause that fragments the human race into pockets of "us" and "them."

It isn't the government or the military that have made the poppy the emblem of significance that it is in Canada -- it is the individual soldier. It is the Veteran. So, although Clay claims his protestations are not meant to disrespect the individual soldier, they in fact do. No one knows the horrors of war like our Vets do. You won't find a Vet who tries to glorify war -- it's the Vets who say 'never again'. Clay's insistence that the poppy is a call-to-arms for the war-monger crowd is a distortion of the message of the War Amps and the Legionnaires who are the main sources of public information for Remembrance Day.

When we remember those who were called to serve, I will wear a poppy. I won't wear it as a symbol of nationalism or in the name of some political goal -- I just want my kids to know that I remember and they should remember, those who '. . . lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, loved and were loved' -- not because their cause was noble, but because they served and sacrificed. The rightness/wrongness of the politics of their wars is not at issue on November 11. Why don't people like Clay see the distinction?

By the way Clay, despite being on the 'wrong' side of the War(s), the Germans and Japanese honour their war dead -- not to justify their national aims during the war, not to glorify their ill-treatment of enemy soldiers and civilians alike, not to revive bygone grudges -- but to remember those young men, who through no fault of their own, were caught up in their era and died on behalf of their countries.

What people like Clay don't get, is that if we turn our backs on Remembrance Day and the poppy, we allow our governments to forget the role they play in instigating and perpetrating war.

The poppy doesn't glorify war -- it is the perfect symbol of war's indifference to right and wrong / good or bad. The poppy grew over the graves of Allies and enemy alike.


Thursday, November 10, 2005

Why is a corrupt government suddenly a bad thing?

The 'united opposition' may well succeed in passing a motion, slated to be tabled on the NDP's Opposition Day, which would politely request that the government impale itself on its own dagger.

So what?

Please Mr. Martin, admit to the country that your government is ineffective and unable to sustain itself. In the meantime, some of us will continue to vote in favour of various bills, which will of course render that admission inaccurate -- because when some of us are willing to vote in favour of your initiatives, you are in fact a workable government -- corrupt, unaccountable, contemptible, inefficient, inept and scandal-ridden, but workable nonetheless.

What is all this posturing for? It makes all of the Opposition parties look just plain stupid.

We have stumbled along with this sad-excuse for a government for this long -- why on earth is it suddenly so important for Jack Layton to take the soap-box and claim moral superiority? If the Liberals aren't worth propping up now, it stands to reason they weren't six months ago. The Gomery report changed nothing. It is politically neutral. No one cares.

Six months ago the governing party had withdrawn opposition days to prevent what it perceived to be a threat to its existence --- that was the time to go and that was the issue the election could have and should have been fought on --- the high-handed actions of the government aimed at thwarting the workings of democracy --- now that would have been an election that meant something.

But no. Jack Layton decided to be king-maker. He played the wise and patient conciliator -- while Buzz Hargrove bargained for the booty that would make Jack look like a hot shot. He sold out truth and democracy in exchange for fool's gold. Oh, I know it sounds melodramatic -- but that's what this parliament has been -- high drama and farce.

So here we are, the united opposition making itself look foolish and redundant by trying to push an election call in February -- when one was already promised for . . . well . . . February.

Why not just leave things be? Why not wait and see if Martin fulfills his promised to 'call an election within 30 days of the release of the Gomery Report and its recommendations'? Said recommendations are due out February 1st. A bit of patience on the part of the 'united opposition' might just prove Martin to be a liar yet again. And even if he's true to his word and does call an election within that time-frame -- what difference does a few weeks make when you've been sustaining corruption since last spring?

The 'united opposition' has been making 'this parliament work' much longer than was ever justifiable. The only thing worse than pulling the plug now, when we expect an election call at some point in February, is the charade of pulling the plug with a spineless, unbinding motion.


Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Martin trying to play hero again

Mandatory minimum sentences for gun-related crimes, funding for community groups that try to reduce gun violence, and more money for youth projects (whatever that means).

That's how Paul Martin plans to make our cities safer.

I'm all for tougher sentences -- for any violent crime. Our revolving door criminal justice system is a joke and anything that would put the bad guys behind bars for longer can only be a good thing.

But the other two initiatives? These touchy-feely, vague ideas on how to reach out to youth to prevent crime are like throwing money down the drain.

I don't know that I have any solutions, but I think the mayor and the PM are looking at the wrong problem.

Bored kids, poor kids, disenfranchised kids -- what else do all these troubled youth have in common? (And no, race isn't the common factor) Most of the kids who live the gangster lifestyle lack a strong positive male role-model. Bluntly, they have no father.

How many times have you read about a young man being shot dead and his mother is lamenting his loss. Where's the father? And further on you read how this same young man is the father of three, four, five kids (all young, all to different women) and now these children will also grow up fatherless.

Go into a Rec Centre and see one of these after school programmes where kids play basketball etc. A bunch of kids (some of them great kids) a couple of leaders -- but not a parent in sight. Then go to an arena on hockey practice night or Saturday morning. Even for practices, none of these kids show up without a parent, even the teens. And if the parent doesn't stay for the practice, he or she has dropped them off. Some of this has to do with means, but much more has to do with lack of male parental involvement in the lives of many impoverished youth.

Attitudes have to change. So long as the government is seen to support a culture where young men have babies to multiple partners, and take no responsibility for their care and upbringing, nothing will ever be better. And people in the community have to take a stand and make greater demands of fathers and sons.

I don't pretend to know what should be done, but I think that violence is the symptom of a bigger social problem that can't be fixed by giving kids something to do and somewhere to hang out. This is a people issue, and most likely it can't be fixed by government. It's annoying that Paul Martin and David Miller pretend throwing money at it will make a difference.

Stricter sentencing -- that's great, but I've no time for Paul Martin playing hero as he tosses nickels and dimes to train or entertain at-risk youth --- not when these same kids watch in awe as the drug dealers in their buildings drive around in Jaguars and there's no dad around to say 'It's just a car son. You don't want to make your money that way.'


Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Layton's final push

If we're to go to the polls anytime soon, I hope it's Layton that sets the wheels in motion -- but I don't trust Layton to say what he means, or mean what he says.

All of this yap could simply be another attempt to extort an agenda from a precarious governing party. His talk is intentionally wishy-washy and vague, so whichever way he decides to go, he'll appear as though he was following through.

Jack's time in the driver's seat is growing short, and he strikes me as the sort of guy who wants to appear to be in control. The Liberals are arrogant enough to think they could win if we go to polls soon. They don't figure they need Jack anymore, and I doubt they're going to flatter his ego yet again by twisting their plans into knots to please the NDP. They figure -- why bother? -- the Conservatives aren't soaring in the polls, and although they (the Liberals) are flat-lining, when push comes to shove 'the devil you know' will undoubtedly be the safe bet with an electorate almost in hibernation for the winter.

This being the case, it makes sense that Jack would want to shake things up. He'd look like a hero:
He made 'this parliament work' last spring.
He got promises out of the government to suit his party's agenda.
He managed to distance himself from the 'separatists'.
And, he will end up appearing more competent a leader than Harper because when Jack decides to trigger a non-confidence vote, all of the opposition parties will be onside.

He will appear to be savvy, sensitive to the public mood and conciliatory when necessary. By setting an election in motion, he will end this session with the illusion of power, and he'll give a boost of morale to his base.

That said, when we do go to the polls, I think Jack will lose big-time.

All of this could be good for the Conservatives, but it won't be necessarily be bad for the Liberals. When all is said and done we might just end up in the same spot as last time . . . and, despite what pundits say about people liking a minority parliament -- I don't think so. Most people would just rather vote in a majority and let them get on with it and govern so they can ignore politics.