My brother Paul & I have agreed to disagree about a number of issues, primarily those relating to war, the military and who should govern our country. Paul spent his adult life as a career officer in the Canadian Army, ostensibly as a tank commander but he carried out many other roles as well.
For a while I found it difficult to have a reasonable conversation with him because of his perspective on these issues but more recently, as we are both retired now, our conversations take on a more moderate tone and our longstanding affection remains in the fore. We can still talk about politics and the role of our armed forces but without getting pig-headed about our relative positions on these matters. Recently, we spoke about who the real heroes were in our contemporary world and he wrote back the following:
My definition of a HERO:
A hero is someone who consciously embarks on a course of action which is more than likely going to result in their own death, but they carry on regardless. There is no such thing as "sports" heroes or any other such drivel.
Who creates this stuff, the media (yah, let’s blame them again) pandering to all the bleeding heart sentimentalists out there? You know, the ones who set up memorials at the side of the road or where somebody got shot, like all the fools that cried over Diana, or the ones from the Ontario Legislature who renamed the 401 the highway of heroes. I doubt if any of the 151 dead coming home from Afghanistan were heroes. They were just soldiers doing their duty and were unlucky.
Fortunately, soldiers know better and don’t buy into what’s being sold here. They are mostly embarrassed when called heroes. I was no hero, but I was lucky and that makes all the difference.
I agree with Paul — ‘hero’ coinage has been debased and we should not impute false rhetoric into descriptions of those who are simply doing the job they signed up for. Soldiers, police, firefighters and ordinary citizens can all be heroes but not simply for dying on the job.
This is the day we honour those valiant citizens who responded to the call of duty in World Wars I & II and subsequently in Korea. Those conflicts appeared to demand our participation in order to protect our national interests. Recent wars don’t strike me as having the same kind of need.
We have sent our troops to Afghanistan in support of the US goal of finding Bin Laden, the self-proclaimed instigator of the Sept. 11/01 attacks on the twin towers in New York, the Pentagon in Washington, DC and the commandeered airliner that crashed in Pennsylvania. The Americans under President George W. Bush subsequently diverted most of their military resources to a fraudulent attack on Iraq. Our Canadian contingent was scheduled to pull out of Afghanistan in February 2009. Our current Prime Minister, Stephan Harper extended this fruitless mission to February 2011.
So far we have accomplished no significant gains against an amorphous enemy we call the Taliban who are called insurgents by our side and the corrupt Karzai government. If foreign troops were in my country I suspect that I would be an "insurgent" too except I would call myself a ‘freedom fighter’.
Now Harper wants to extend our troop presence in Afghanistan again beyond the Feb. 2011 deadline on the pretext that the remaining soldiers would be out of combat and have strictly a training role for the Afghan army. In fact, the Canadian army is already in a training role for the Afghans and this role takes those troops into harm’s way in the process and that would certainly continue. In fact, our "peacekeeping" missions also resulted in casualties too.This new gambit is perpetrating a fraud on our soldiers and the rest of Canada. Anyway, the Afghans have been at war with intruders for centuries and certainly know how to fight. But why are we surprised when they don’t want to fight for the corrupt leaders that are propped up by the West?
We need a careful review of the role of our Canadian Armed Forces. We continue to operate under a false premise that the need for our military is just another variation of the job our men and women undertook in previous conflicts going back over half a century. We have no business indulging in wars perpetrated by the likes of a corporatist USA. Our responsibilities as a member of the community of nations is to protect our citizens from all threats, whether natural or imposed, and not to go off adventuring abroad on behalf of some other nation’s corporate interests.
Let’s call for an intensive, comprehensive analysis of what our country really needs in terms of protecting and nurturing our best interests. This may be difficult for those who like to revel in some kind of a warrior fantasy dream but outdated attitudes are a total waste of our resources, especially our young and valiant soldiers.
Remember, when you have to declare war, you know you have lost the battle.
"You can lead a horse’s ass to the polls but you can’t make him think."
The vote is in and the plutocracy in the USA has overwhelmed a gullible electorate. The pundits keep talking about how the Democrats squandered their ‘control’ of the congress over the past two years but, upon reflection, any student of US politics must realize that the Republican minority in the US Senate blocked Democratic initiatives in the most single-minded fashion in its history.
The level of misinformation in this election reached mind-boggling levels and listening to the so-called ‘Tea-Party’ candidates was enough to exasperate even the most indifferent here in Canada. In spite of the fact that our less than perfect health system here is more cost effective and operates at a higher level of effectiveness than the US model, the conservatives there still seem to believe that their health system is the best in the world.
What has become so clear to me over the past several years is that Americans in general truly believe their own mythology. The reactionary right continues to tell their followers that America is the best, most powerful, most peaceful, most generous and most accommodating nation in the world. In fact, while the US is one of the wealthier nations in the world, over 90% of the wealth is concentrating among less than 10% of the population. The power brokers, that is the corporatist elite, can now manipulate the message reaching the general public through unlimited spending without revealing the source of those messages. Unlike Canada, there is no equivalent to the CRTC which can shut down media outlets that broadcast false or misleading messages. Americans appear to have a very high tolerance for fake stories couched in terms of patriotism, especially if cross-referenced to the US Constitution.
My friends in the US have not been able to influence the progressive elements in the political spectrum so I have watched as the reactionary right has brain-washed the unthinking through the most blatant demagoguery seen since the era of the mercantile robber barons. There appears to be some pervasive amnesia about the Republican administration that squandered the surplus left by the Clinton administration, that started a multibillion dollar war in Iraq killing hundreds of thousands of innocents, eliminated the regulations that would have kept the financial community in check, allowed polluters to ravage the environment and let poverty and homelessness have a growth spurt in the name of ‘freedom’.
Is the US an its way to becoming a northern version of Mexico with no middle class, lots of poor at the poverty level and a handful of super-rich who will tell the peons what to think?
Torontonians have just elected a member of the well-fed, affluent elite of this city as our next mayor. Yes, Im referring to that porcine gent, Rob Ford. He is rich enough as the CFO of his family’s printing business that he didn’t need to spend any of the allocated expense money he was entitled to as a city councillor. Did I mention that he is also a university graduate? So, how come he is the darling of the downtrodden masses who are just scraping by in this beleaguered economy?
I think I know how he did it. He told us that the current city administration was getting away with gross misbehaviour and he wasn’t going to put up with it any longer. It was an instructive lesson in basic political chicanery whereby the message was repeated over and over that that this city was going nowhere because the spending of the Miller regime was out of control and his fellow councillors were riding a ‘gravy train’ at the expense of taxpayers. The truth of the matter was never really covered by the media.
Residents in the downtown core (i.e. the original city of Toronto) were not fooled as they had watched development and renewal everywhere they looked. If the TTC was not perfect it was on the cusp of new developments that were intended to improve the system. In the suburban regions voters looked to Ford to rectify all the failings that he had described — especially the despised vehicle registration tax. Suburbanites love their cars and hate the gridlock commute in and out of the core area but don’t want to have to pay to have that problem fixed. The equivalent of the population of the city of Winnipeg comes in and out of the city core every business day — the detritus from which the core population has to deal with.
Ford’s fixation with subway extensions sounds fine until you come to grips with the cost of implementation. Scrapping the Metrolinx project would be costly and set the commuter issues back for years. His focus on cutting out discretionary spending by councillors was an attention-grabber for a substantive number of the electorate who did not see beyond the pettiness of that argument. Personally, I would love to take the TTC downtown or anywhere else in the city if there were more direct transit links from my location in Scarborough village.
What is truly sad is the fact that Ford was elected mayor for the next 4 years by 24% of the electorate (52% of those eligible voted and he garnered 47% of those) So my next bumper sticker is going to say: "Don’t blame me… I voted".