Lest we forget. That is the motto of the last two world wars. The question could be : "Lest we forget what?" Is it the men and women who died, were wounded and forever scarred by war that we are meant not to forget? Not likely, in the sense that we never knew them. Some of us had loved ones in the war, in my case a father, but I would never forget him in any case. Is it the mass destruction, the slaughter of civilians, the absolute firepower that these armies unleashed that we are meant to forget? I would argue it's all of these things, summed up in one word - sacrifice.
But, what was that sacrifice for? In different countries there were as many different reasons. For the Russians it was the "Great Patriotic War". For the British Empire it was "Empire War", and for the Americans it was the "Mess with us and die War". In the sixty odd years since the last world war we commonly see that struggle as the "War for Freedom". Freedom meaning our society would never become a police state as was the case with Nazi Germany. Personal freedom, democracy, and the rule of law would guide our nation. We prided ourselves on this, and the average person on the streets never questions it should be any other way.
Then, in a murderous, chaotic moment at the National War Monument, and then Parliament Hill, all that came into question. Or did it? As a young Corporal lay dying near the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and as the young attacker who caused his death died in a hail of bullets in the Hall of Honour, national media were already saying "This changes Canada forever". If that sounds familiar it's likely your mind wondering back to the events of "911" and the rhetoric that came afterward from the politicians: the world is changed; America has changed; the Patriot Act; Guantanamo; wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; making the world safe for democracy; you are with us or against us. Yes, the ghosts of 911 immediately sprang to life in the Canadian national media.
But, is that really true? Perhaps I missed it? At what point did the Canadian people agree to abandon their freedom for "security"? Did we agree to forfeit our freedom that was guaranteed by the deaths of over 100,000 Canadians in two world wars over the deaths of two soldiers at the hands of two now dead ISIS sympathizers? Is our freedom, our way of life really that weak? Are we that insecure? Are we prepared to capitulate and surrender the gift of freedom, earned by the blood of our ancestors on foreign battle fields, so that we may know what it is to not live in a police state?
After the attack in Ottawa by a lone gunman the military was ordered not to wear their uniforms anywhere in the country while off base. Then, a day later, the decision was overturned. It was an immediate surrender of pride, freedom, and honour by politicians in a panic. An over reaction. What the might of Nazi Germany could not do, one lone gunman achieved - if only briefly. The national media, particularly the state-owned CBC, immediately began the call for restricting our freedom to our Parliament and greater state intrusions into our personal lives. All in the name of security. All in the name of the "greater good". Just like 911. Hopefully, that will face the same fate as the order not to wear uniforms.
The bigger lesson in all of this is just how ready "the powers to be" are to sacrifice our rights in the name of security. It was almost like they were looking for an excuse to do that, and once presented, they quickly grasped it. However, they ignore one very crucial thing. The blood of 100,000 dead earned us the right to keep that freedom. The hundreds of thousands of men and women wounded and altered by their war experience for life earned us that right. Rights that are guaranteed by our Constitution now. Freedom that is not subject to political whims or expediency. Freedom that is eternal as the flame that burns on Parliament Hill. It is paid for in full. It makes us who we are. Without it we are nothing.
The lesson for people like ISIS is that Canada can be rocked by the death of two soldiers at home. That the collective Canadian psyche is so weak that a lone gunman can bring it down by one moment of madness. Far from deterring another attack by the likes of ISIS, Canada's response must be mightily encouraging to them. Therein lies the danger. We are showing weakness. After all, ISIS doesn't care about our societal values. It cares about our personal values. It cares that we insist on freedom and equality for women, as an example. There are many others. The point is, they want to change us more than change our government. If we allow this attack to in any way alter us then they have won. When we should be giving a Churchill-like "some chicken, some neck", we instead give a Chamberlain-like "peace in our time".
Appeasing, even rewarding people like ISIS with the degradation of our freedom speaks more about us than them. It says we are weak, scared, and without courage of conviction. It says we do not find strength in the fields of Canadian crosses oversees, but rather we scurry to whatever system that will allow us to freely shop at Walmart. It says our society, and our belief system, is based on convenience rather than principle. Perhaps people like ISIS already suspect this about us. Perhaps it's even true. But, it doesn't have to be. We don't have to stand on a cold highway, and awkwardly (even bizarrely) sing O Canada and clap as if we were at a hockey game as a lone hearse carries a dead soldier to a funeral home. Perhaps we could stand in steely silence, honour the man's sacrifice, and swear to ourselves and him that we won't trade off the freedom given by the men and women whose monument he had guarded. That would be the ultimate statement. The strength of our character and values was tested in two world wars. We prevailed. That mantle was given to us. Lest we forget.
Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the
round pegs in the square holes... the ones who see things differently -- they're
not fond of rules... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify
them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change
things... they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the
crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that
they can change the world, are the ones who do.
US computer engineer & industrialist (1955 - 2011)