Remembrance Day takes me back to my teaching days. I could never ignore such an occasion, with everyone walking around wearing poppies, and soldiers in uniform on the streets, on tv, and in newspapers. As a grade one teacher, it was an opportunity and a duty to introduce an important concept and start a foundation for further learning. I maintain that there is almost nothing you cannot teach 6-7 year-olds, as long as you remember their vocabulary and level of knowledge. So every year I taught a big lesson about Remembrance Day.
It was not, of course, about glorifying war or the military. It was about honouring the people who fought for our country and our freedoms. No one understands that better than I do; my Father and uncles all fought for Canada during WWII.
For young children, we want to downplay violence, and also have to be sensitive about fear of death. So I would talk about the wars of the past, and that our hope for the future was that those wars would never happen again. I taught about the concept of learning from our mistakes. That wasn't idealistic, nor overly hopeful; I don't know many who expect another world war.
While we have come a long way from the world wars, today we have an army in Afghanistan. We very nearly sent soldiers to Iraq. So-called "free" countries have taken part in the invasion of Haiti, where Canada helped remove a democratically elected leader. We intend to continue the occupation of Afghanistan, where conditions have worsened instead of improving, and where our soldiers are not wanted. We have abandoned our reputation as an international peacekeeper. Canada's own General Hillier removed all doubt about that when stated that a soldier's main purpose is to kill.
Today's Toronto Star online has a video link featured prominently, in which a young man with a creepy skull t-shirt says that "Canadians have a new-found respect for the military." Eh? Not in my world. While I do believe a lot of people enter the military with the best of intentions, the Iraq, Afghanistan, and Haiti debacles - among others - have painted grim portraits of the military and the difficulty some soldiers face trying to do the right thing in the face of orders to the contrary.
The entire recognition of Remembrance Day rings hollow as Canada continues to occupy Afghanistan. The PR machine, including media, military, and government officials, tells us that we are there to do good; there is overwhelming evidence that that is not the case. And while Obama has supported American troop withdrawal from Iraq, he wants to divert troops to Afghanistan and step up the fighting there.
Harper and Obama are not committed to peace; on the contrary, they are committed to war. And so, on this November 11, 2008, what are we teaching our children? What are we honouring?
3 weeks ago