Monday, November 11, 2013

Lest We Forget

I'm usually big on Remembrance Day (Veterans' Day for my American friends), a day in which I tip my hat to those who have sacrificed so much for the general ''us'' (and myself in particular), our freedom, our present. It's like a more honest Thanksgiving, without the turkey, and celebrated privately rather than with relatives.

But I'm not feeling it as much. Not that I don't respect it, just... the world we live in isn't all that great, for starters, especially towards those who have served their country:
But also in light of natural disasters such as today's Typhoon in the Phillippines, there are countless people who give or lose everything they have, every single day, with no one to benefit from their actions and losses.

Then comes the thought of all the unjust wars, both ones in Iraq starring in that role, but also Vietnam, and on a lesser scale, the Korean war - in which my grandfather served as a sniper - which, lest we not forget, pitted a communist government (North Korea) against a right-wing government (South Korea), and despite being less than a decade removed from WWII, the United Nations supported the right-wing, starting a spiral for North Korea that, with the help of blockades and embargoes, left them bitter, poor, starving, technologically impaired even to this day, and pissed off at the Western world - for good reason.

It takes a special person to be willing to sacrifice their life for their country, for their beliefs; it takes an even better soldier to go through with it despite disagreeing with orders, as many U.S. troops have since 2003. It takes a righteous person to serve as a means of defense rather than invasion or regime change, though.

More than all of that, though, I really despise profiteers pinning poppies to their suits when they use other humans - mostly kids and young adults yet to reach their prime - to unjustly invade another country for profit or territory after everything we know now. And to, at times, even poison their own troops while doing so.

Then there's the ''after'': those who come back perfectly healthy still struggle to find decent work; those who come back mentally scarred receive no help whatsoever; those who come back maimed and missing limbs being refused any type of disability claim, financial help, often having their insurances cut soon after their (first) hospital release.

The problem is those in charge see it as a mathematical equation: what will it cost, versus how much do we/some of us get back? I've heard time and time again, if senators, politicians and big company executives were to send their own children to war, would they hesitate at least a little more before pulling the trigger?

That's the wrong question, though. When a soldier's life is equated with his $30K salary and negatively evaluated as a three-year investment, how many can you spare in order to help Halliburton make billions? Where is the cut-off line where they would have to think twice about putting kids in danger? What if they made $100K a year, $250K? With a life insurance worth 5 to 10 times their yearly salary, would insurance companies warn not to risk losing them uselessly?

Unfortunately, that is the world we are left with today. Corrupt leaders doing a small group's bidding, sacrificing everyone they have to in order to keep going at it. I used to love the picture at the top of this post, the sacrifices of the past supporting our care-free way of life. Except more and more, it seems like their sacrifice was for nil, that the hell they're in transposed to the upper level, that the grass is no longer green, the future is bleak, the people are poor, starving, bitter and rightly pissed off, but it doesn't even matter, because the powers that be have us all in check anyway, throwing fake laws and militarily-equipped cops at us, restraining our education, our means of purchase, access to decent jobs, clean air, fresh water, natural fucking food...

I'll tell you what: I'm pretty sure that's not what my uncle Jean-Marc (late 1970s), stepdad Daniel (late 1970s), grandfather Raymond (Korea, later Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau's personal bodyguard), great-uncle Gérard (WWII) and the others I'd rather not get into at the moment had in mind when they joined the Canadian Forces, nor what Joseph, Jack, Kevin, James and John had in mind when they joined the U.S. Forces.


Sébastian Hell said...

My friend Mark had this to add:

''I hate warfare. It is Nightmare come to life. Endless, merciless death and destruction. I love war movies, and good ol' shoot-em-ups, on screen it's fake, cathartic fun, but real life is a very different thing. Sadly though, there are times when, as Tolkien put it, war is upon you whether you like it or not. And in those times, we are reminded that there are lives and values that are worth fighting for, even dying for, when threatened by an aggressive lunatic fringe. Yesterday was a day to remember difficult and tragic events, and those who sacrificed so much, sometimes everything.

So it was yesterday on a radio talk show that I came across the story of Léo Major.

Léo was a French-Canadian commando sharpshooter who fought in WW2 and Korea. Basically, he was an action movie hero come to life. Among his numerous acts of unbelievable courage and skill, in the Netherlands he liberated the entire city of Zwolle, 45 thousand people, by himself. Yes, completely by himself, he tricked, killed and chased out all the Nazi invaders in one night and prevented the city from being shelled by allied forces, thus saving hundreds, perhaps thousands, of lives. And he did it with only one eye. YUP. His left eye had been burned out on D-Day, by a phosphorus grenade while he captured a Nazi half-track. All by himself. After which he also captured 93 Nazis all at once. All by himself. Oh and there's more, plenty more. That is one tough SOB, would make Rambo wet himself.

Léo came back home to Quebec, where he lived to the ripe old age of 87, passing away in Longueuil in 2008. Barely anybody showed up, no farewell salute, a few newspaper articles, nothing particular.

But in Zwolle, upon hearing of his passing, flags were flown at half-mast. And Zwolle remembered to thank its saviour and honourary citizen.''

Sébastian Hell said...

Food for thought.