I was pretty scared of Remembrance Day when I was young.
Not because my childish naivete couldn't handle the sheer ghastliness of a holiday devoted to mourning the wartime slaughter of untold thousands (though that was certainly part), but more because I found the single-minded seriousness of everyone and everything surrounding the day so stark and intimidating.
These days, of course, there's a lot less of that. Somewhere along the line, November 11 passed from being a spectacle of unanimous civic deference to yet one more boring "controversy" of modern life, bound up in all sorts of political pet causes and righteous quests for moral superiority. And the press, always lazily eager to view even the most innocuous, routine events through myopic partisan narratives, seems more than happy to play along.
Take the matter of exactly what and how we should be remembering. This is something the editorial pages have no shortage of fun opinions about.
Writing in the Globe and Mail, for instance, famed Battle of Ridgeway historian Peter Vronsky is worried that no one remembers the Battle of Ridgeway (which, for reference, was the surprisingly unsuccessful 1866 Irish-American campaign to liberate Ireland by invading Ontario) and frets that this lack of awareness could negatively impact sales of his latest book -- er, I mean, national pride.
Far too many of Canada's early wars, like our 1899-1902 campaign to ensure South Africans lived under the correct form of white domination, are being "purged from our national heritage," moans Pete, and once you start forgetting about this-or-that war just because it's really old and obscure and boring where does it end? I mean, first Ridgeway, next Normandy? Don't think you're safe from the looming airbrush of revisionism, greatest generation!
Over at the Toronto Sun, meanwhile, another Pete is concerned that modern Remembrance Days have started to play up the "peace" angle way too much. This is bad, he says, since peace "seems to have been hijacked by the left" lately and that's bad because if the lefties control Remembrance Day we might not spend enough time talking about how cool and awesome Canadian soldiers are, and instead spend way too much time making organic macaroni dioramas of Jane Fonda (or whatever it is lefties do).
Oh, enough with the politics, responds Toronto Star editor Fred Edwards. Or at least enough with everyone else's politics. Remembrance Day isn't supposed to be "about victory or military prowess and national accomplishment," he says, and "still less about victims and criminals. It is about people who died." And frankly, implying said dead people are anything other than ethically-inconclusive ciphers who made some value-neutral sacrifice in a morally-ambiguous conflict "robs them of their humanity."
Then, of course, there's this whole trend of using Remembrance Day as an opportunity to remind everyone of the awful things the Prime Minister is doing to our vets at the moment -- making them pay for their own caskets, etc. -- a topic that was the subject of pretty much every major Canadian newspaper's R-Day op-ed this weekend.
To say Harper's been screwing our soldiers "is to utter the D-Day of understatements," quips the Star in a Hiroshima of overzealous indignation.
It's true, of course, that all this pompous windbaggery is an expression of "the very freedoms our veterans fought and died for," but such cliches have always seemed too cute by half.
A Rememberance Day observed simply through quiet reverence and dignity might not be as flamboyantly "free" as airing all manner of grievances about Canadian military history and the Department of Veteran's Affairs, but it would still be the right thing to do.
And rightness, lest we forget, was something our vets fought for as well.
Is there any aspect of American politics that can't be improved by blindly copying Canada? Let's hope not, or our pundits have wasted a lot of time.
In the aftermath of Tuesday night's minority-vote backlash against Mitt Romney, there's been much nationalistic chatter in the Canadian editorial pages that the GOP's long journey back to power must involve a fullscale emulation of Stephen Harper's Conservatives.
Or, more specifically, Jason Kenney's Conservatives.
It was Minister Kenney, after all, who first realized that "unless the Conservatives found ways of getting non-whites to vote for them" they'd never win, writes Sun TV superstar Charles Addler. Yeah, agrees Postmedia's Stephen Maher, our right-wingers "learned long ago that they would not benefit from exploiting the kind of divisions that Republicans have encouraged," particularly between the white majority and brown future-majority.
Steve notes that while Kenney has been all over the place eating "curry and dim sum" with cuddly immigrants, "Republicans have not made a similar effort, perhaps because they are culturally hostile to minorities." Or perhaps they just dislike spicy food. Mitt definitely seems like a mild salsa sorta guy.
But the only thing that should be mild is your social policies, commands Jon Ibbitson at the Globe! "While many immigrants are socially conservative," he says, they're also keenly aware that "intolerance toward another minority could also mean intolerance towards them." So as go the gays, so goes the ethnic vote. Or something.
In passing, Jon quickly notes that the Tories probably also benefitted from a deivided centre-left opposition and a political system that awards total victory to anyone able to win as little as 40 per cent of the popular vote. And I'm sure a sponsorship scandal doesn't hurt either.
But yeah, dim sum.