Recently, I was caught off-guard by a question from a non-Veteran: she wanted to know, if Veterans are so mistreated, why aren't there massive protests? Why aren't Veterans staging sit-ins, or blocking traffic, or something similar? Why are they so quiet compared to other communities? She had a simple question:
Where's the outrage?
That is a very good question.
Veterans are strangers in a strange land. Service World is very different from Civilian Land. It is a world of honour, where one's word is as good as a contract, and where trust in one's superiors is both standard and justified. It is not our world. Our world is full of distrust, of broken promises, of lying to get ahead, of spin and image, of having to shout and scream to get attention.
When Veterans discuss protests, their ideas are... well, not what we civilians would do. It's things like wearing a poppy backwards to symbolize government turning their backs on Veterans. Things like staying home from Remembrance services. Perhaps even going as far as to refuse to shake hands with politicians. The protests plans are subtle, dignified... and ineffective. To a Veteran, these are serious messages, but we civilians can't even read them. We just don't get it.
However, nothing divides the Veterans' community like the issue of protesting on Remembrance Day. One camp of Veterans feels this is the perfect day to get media attention. The other feels that Remembrance Day is sacred and should never be used for political purposes. Back and forth the debate rages. Should protests happen? If so, how? Refusing to shake hands? Backwards poppies? Ribbons? Signs? Turning back on to the politicians who turned their backs on Veterans?
Mere mention of protests has got the Conservatives' attention. A now-former Tory-organizer tried to discredit one Veterans group for discussing protests. Julian Fantino, the current incarnation of a Minister for Veterans Affairs, took to the media last week to suggest that every Veterans advocate should "put down their pen to stand shoulder to shoulder with others in remembrance of the fallen." He uses the archaic term 'Armistice Day' in a blatant attempt to appeal to Veterans to make a truce with government. *
What the Minister wants us to do on Remembrance Day is to forget. Forget the homeless Veterans. Forget the lawsuits, and how the Harper Government says they are not obligated to provide for Veterans. Forget the closure of VAC Offices, the cuts to staff, and the consequent loss of service to Veterans. Forget the Veterans kicked out of the Forces before they are eligible for pensions. Forget the families of poor Veterans, denied funeral expenses.
Forget the politicians posing for pictures with wreaths and vets, loading up on PR fodder for the next 12 months -- photos to demonstrate their dedication to Veterans, no matter how they vote in the house. Yes, above all, we must forget how politicians exploit this sacred day, clamouring for power by standing on the piles of the Fallen. Never mind that -- the Minister says it's all about remembrance.
So, where's the outrage in Veterans? It's there. It's carefully strapped down under medals and tunics, by insignia and loyalty, by tradition and dignity, and by a determined refusal to sink to the level of politicians. But make no mistake - the outrage is there. Ask a vet; they'll tell you.
A more important question is this: Where is Canada's outrage?
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