Monday, 10 November 2014

No. They Didn't Fight for our Freedoms.

On Remembrance Day, Canadians come together to honour our fellow countrymen and women who have sacrificed for the sake of our freedom and way of life. Prince George-Peace River MP Bob Zimmer

This trope that Canadian soldiers have fought and sacrificed for Canadian freedoms is so common we accept it without any thought. It's part of our lore now, and it is regularly trotted out as a reminder to honour our veterans. Well I have thought about it, and I find this sentiment to be misguided and completely wrong. At no time have Canadian freedoms ever been under threat of attack. The only exception being the only war fought on our soil, the War of 1812. But that's not what people think about when they say "they sacrificed their lives for our freedoms."

When we state that members of our military fought for our freedoms, we dishonour the true sacrifice made. The physical and mental scars, the loss of friends and colleagues in battle, the cost of combat; has all occurred on foreign soil. The sacrifices made have all been to free foreign citizens from an oppressive threat to them. These sacrifices were not for us, they were made for something more than that. They were made so that others could escape oppression and have a chance to live in freedom.

By making this sacrifice all about us, it diminishes the true valor and selfless altruism expressed. When we put ourselves central to the story, we create a narrative that becomes partisan and political. It helps to assuage our guilt about sending our sons and daughters overseas to die on foreign soil. Even though it happened over there we claim it was about defending us over here.

But when one follows that logic it quickly breaks down. For the battles fought to have been about defending us would require that there was a threat to our shores; that there was an imminent invasion of our country that needed to be stopped. But we have never been under threat of invasion. Even in World War 2, Germany would have never had the capacity to invade North America; their goal was the European mainland and Russia, a goal that was already beyond their military might. Japan had no ambitions beyond the so-called Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. Even if Germany and Japan had won the war, our democratic freedoms and our territory were safe.

The strength with which we cling to this tenuous link to protecting our freedoms says more about us than it does about those that served. And isn't it supposed to be the other way around? Let's not diminish the altruism and sacrifice of those that have served in our armed forces. For I can think of no greater sacrifice then to lay down ones life for an other, a stranger.

A foreigner.

Why do we work so hard to lessen the meaning of that sacrifice? Perhaps it's time we stopped. Remember and honour the sacrifice made so that others could live free.

1 comment:

Ken Breadner said...

Thank you. I had to write two longer blogs than yours and still didn't communicate this as effectively as you just did.