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J.J. McCullough

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Media Bites: What You Should Have Remembered on November 11

Posted: 11/12/2012 12:03 pm

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.

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  • A member of the armed forces forms inspects wreaths ahead of a Remembrance Day dawn service at Prospect Cemetery in Toronto, on Sunday November 11, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

  • People gather around the war monument during a Remembrance Day ceremony in downtown St. John's, NL, Sunday, Nov. 11, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

  • Veterans salute as they take part in the National Remembrance Day ceremony in Ottawa Sunday, November 11, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand

  • The Canadian flag is lowered to half mast during a Remembrance Day dawn service at Prospect Cemetery in Toronto, on Sunday November 11, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

  • Prime Minister Stephen Harper walks with Hong Kong Veteran Arthur Kenneth Pifher, 91, of Grimsby, Ont., as they take part in a Remembrance Day ceremony at Sai Wan War Cemetery in Hong Kong on Sunday, November 11, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

  • A wreath sits infront of a military gravestone in the National Military cemetary in Ottawa, Friday November 9, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

  • Service medals are seen on Australian retired General Peter Congrove, of NSW Centenary of Anzac Advisory Council Chair, during the Remembrance Day ceremony held at the cenotaph in Sydney on November 11, 2012. Remembrance Day marks the anniversary of the armistice which ended the First World War (1914–18) and in memory of those who died or suffered in wars and armed conflicts. AFP PHOTO/ROSLAN RAHMAN (Photo credit should read ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A woman places a poppy flower on the cenotaph during Remembrance Day in Sydney on November 11, 2012. Remembrance Day marks the anniversary of the armistice which ended the First World War (1914–18) and in memory of those who died or suffered in wars and armed conflicts. AFP PHOTO/ROSLAN RAHMAN (Photo credit should read ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Wooden crosses bearing pictures of fallen servicemen and women and messages from their loved ones are planted in a memorial field at Saltwell Park in Gateshead, north-east England, on October 29, 2012 ahead of Remembrance Day (Armistice Day) on November 11. AFP PHOTO/PAUL ELLIS (Photo credit should read PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Wooden crosses bearing pictures of fallen servicemen and women and messages from their loved ones are planted in a memorial field at Saltwell Park in Gateshead, north-east England, on October 29, 2012 ahead of Remembrance Day (Armistice Day) on November 11. AFP PHOTO/PAUL ELLIS (Photo credit should read PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images)

  • An Israeli soldier stands in front of a wall of names memorial to fallen soldiers at the Armored Corps memorial, following a ceremony to mark Remembrance Day, or Memorial Day at Latrun Junction, near Jerusalem on April 25, 2012. Remembrance Day is followed immediately by the 61st anniversary of the creation of the State of Israel. AFP PHOTO/JACK GUEZ (Photo credit should read JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

  • King Albert II of Belgium salutes during the commemoration of World War I (1914-1918), commonly known as Remembrance Day, at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, in Brussels, on November 11, 2012. AFP PHOTO / BELGA / BENOIT DOPPAGNE (Photo credit should read BENOIT DOPPAGNE/AFP/Getty Images)

  • AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - NOVEMBER 11: Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall meets with New Zealand war veteran Staff Sgt Kirsty Meynell after the Armistice Day Commemoration at the Auckland War Memorial on November 11, 2012 in Auckland, New Zealand. The Royal couple are in New Zealand on the last leg of a Diamond Jubilee that takes in Papua New Guinea, Australia and New Zealand. (Photo by Ross Setford-Pool/Getty Images)

  • A US citizen carries wreath as he walks past walls where 36,286 names of missing are inscribed at the US cemetery and memorial during the Veterans Day memorial in Manila on November 11, 2012. The US cemetery contains the remains of 16,631 Americans who died in the Pacific, China,India, and Burma theaters of war. AFP PHOTO/TED ALJIBE (Photo credit should read TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty Images)

  • AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - NOVEMBER 11: Prince Charles, Prince of Wales greets war veterans and members of the public following Armistice Day commemorations at the Auckland War Memorial Museum on November 11, 2012 in Auckland, New Zealand. The Royal couple have arrived in New Zealand on the last leg of a Diamond Jubilee that takes in Papua New Guinea, Australia and New Zealand. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

  • A US soldier carrying the US national flag stands at attention during the Veteran's Day commemoration at the US cemetery in Manila on November 11, 2012. The US cemetery contains the remains of 16,631 US citizens who died in the Pacific, China, India, and Burma theaters of war. AFP PHOTO/TED ALJIBE (Photo credit should read TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Chelsea Pensioners march past the Cenotaph during Remembrance Sunday service in Whitehall, Central London, on November 11, 2012. Services are held annually across Commonwealth countries during Remembrance Day to commemorate servicemen and women who have fallen in the line of duty since World War I. AFP PHOTO/CARL COURT (Photo credit should read CARL COURT/AFP/Getty Images)

  • FORT WILLIAM, UNITED KINGDOM - NOVEMBER 11: Servicemen and women join veterans as they attend a remembrance Sunday ceremony at Commando Memorial on November 11, 2012 in Spean Bridge, Scotland. Remembrance Sunday tributes were carried out across the nation to pay respects to all who those who lost their lives in current and past conflicts, including the First and Second World War . (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

  • BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - NOVEMBER 11: King Albert II of Belgium meets with war veterans during a tribute to the unknown soldier on November 11, 2012 in Brussels, Belgium. (Photo by Mark Renders/Getty Images)

 

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