Some are geographically distant from those they hold dear and raise a solitary glass to absent friends. Others have lost loved ones to the grave. But for many of us, "no contact" is a choice we consciously made. Loneliness is simply less painful than the agony of spending time with our toxic families.
I watched CBC TV's coverage of Remembrance Day on Parliament Hill Wednesday. Several vets in their late 80s and early 90s told some of their stories. But in a few years, millions of untold stories about our fathers, grandfathers or great grandfathers, will be gone. And simply because we didn't ask to hear them.
In a country that traditionally does not know its own history, young people are often identified as the main offenders. But this poem is different. It represents something that is ours. Written by a Canadian, learned by Canadians and recited by Canadians. The Vimy Foundation is calling on all Canadian schools to help pass the torch of remembrance by reciting In Flanders Fields.
Every year, on Nov. 11, I woke up knowing that I didn't have to go to school. I still had work to do, though: pull my Scouting uniform out of my closet, tuck the shirt into my pants and drive 15 minutes to the cenotaph at the rec centre to huddle in the cold with my friends. We would stand holding our flags, my dad beside us, his breast pocket gleaming with medals he'd earned from his 25 years of military service. Sure, the ceremony was long, and for many years, I didn't know the words to "God Save The Queen." But the ritual always felt incredibly important, not just because I'd been taught about the sacrifices of the uniformed men and women at the ceremony and the horrors of war.
There is nothing intrinsically "Canadian," let alone "conservative," about leveraging insecurity, racism and xenophobia for votes through ethnic scapegoating. That is not a "conservative" strategy; it's a fascist strategy with a long and bloody history, and it has no place in Canada. On October 19th, we have a chance to "take our country back." We have the chance to declare once and for all that who and what we are as Canadians is no longer for sale. We have a chance to steer Canada off its collision course with history, to save it from derailing and crashing beyond our ability to recognize it, let alone repair it.
Most veterans joined the Forces between the ages of 18 and 22 and serve a large portion of their adult lives in uniform. When they leave the military, they are leaving behind comrades who continue to serve Canada, so it is a priority for them to see that the military has the equipment and support it needs. Probably the largest reason why many veterans support the Conservative Party is because they have seen both the equipment and morale improve dramatically under Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The last Liberal government hollowed out the military during the "Decade of Darkness." From used submarines to the dated green uniforms for Afghanistan, the Liberals did not make a properly equipped military a priority.
The Liberals have proven time and time again to be no friend to the soldiers. Chrétien wearing his helmet on backwards (then chiding soldiers as they tried to show him how to wear it properly) and the elder Trudeau's morale-killing reorganizations have made a lasting impression on generations of military men and women who have been burned by the Liberals one too many times -- by pandering to the veteran community, the Liberals are hoping that the memory of soldiers does not go beyond the year 2000.
When Canadian soldiers returned from World War II, local business and community leaders formed committees to ensure vets had jobs and the support they needed to start a new life. It's time to re-examine that idea. Soldiers deserve more than a handshake when their service ends. "Support our Troops" must be more than an empty slogan on a bumper sticker.