It seems, in many ways, that not enough has changed since Nov 11,
1918 when the Armistice was signed between the Allies and their opponents; Germany, Bulgaria, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Ottoman Empire (more on that later). At least that’s how I am feeling right now in light of what happened in Canada this weekend.
There are no world wars underway right now so we, at home here in Canada, feel safe. Yet racism is alive. Not much more than 100+ years ago the west was being settled and everyone was welcome in Canada. Now “you people” is used in a derogatory way to highlight immigrants who supposedly have a higher incidence of not wearing poppies. Specific areas of Canada were targeted in this comment by Don Cherry, a controversial, outspoken Canadian, which leads one to project that he is looking at certain demographics.
I myself forgot to change my poppy from my fall jacket to my winter jacket. It’s an easy enough thing to do. Would one look at me and think “you people” are disrespectful of all the veterans and those that serve now? I’m a white haired senior citizen so I would be given grace for not wearing one. Yet somehow, if you are brown or black or shades in between, you are one of those “you people” and you aren’t grateful enough for what our veterans have done for Canada and you just want the milk and honey.
I like to think that I understand free speech in Canada but just to be certain I looked it up. “Freedom of expression in Canada is protected as a “fundamental freedom“ by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Charter also permits the government to enforce “reasonable” limits. Hate speech, obscenity, and defamation are common categories of restricted speech in Canada.“
That last sentence is why people like Don Cherry should not go spouting off their mouths. It’s a short walk from defamation and hate speech to larger much more ugly things. Things that can get out of hand and turn the world upside down.
Peter Mansbridge is quite articulate on this subject and here is his Point of View . It is worthy of reading.
Which brings me back to the state of the world and veterans although it will seem like I am traveling in a strange direction. Eventually I hope you will see my point if I can get the articulation of it nailed down. When most Canadians think about the First World War it is the Western Front that comes to mind. Which follows then with our Canadian trips to Commonwealth Grave Sites, Flanders Fields, Passenscdale and Vimy Ridge. There was also an Eastern Front and as I am no war expert I will only offer brief details; gleaned from on line sources.
Throughout history, Palestine has been ruled by numerous groups, including the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Fatimids, Seljuk Turks, Crusaders, Egyptians, Mamelukes and Islamists. From about 1517 to 1917, the Ottoman Empire ruled much of the region. The Beersheba-Gaza Line are the three battles fought between the Ottoman Empire and British forces in the Gaza region of Palestine from March to November 1917. That ended Ottoman rule in Palestine and initiated the British Mandate of Palestine.
Thus began modern Palestine and with it the “internal” war/conflict (whatever you call it the toll has been significant) between Jews and Arabs in the region. Some of it has been less internal like the 1948 War which involved Israel and five Arab nations—Jordan, Iraq, Syria, Egypt and Lebanon. This conflict marked the beginning of years of violent conflict between Arabs and Israelis. The Palestine Liberation Organization emerged as a response to Zionism. After the Six-Day War Israel took control of the Gaza Strip, West Bank, Sinai Peninsula and Golan Heights. The outcome of this war led to more fighting that continued for decades. Although Palestinians occupy key areas of land, including the West Bank and the Gaza strip, large populations of Israelis continue to settle in these locations. Many international rights groups consider these settlements illegal, the borders aren’t clearly defined, and persistent conflict continues to be the normal.
That’s kind of it in a nutshell. It’s such a complex history but the point here is that Gaza is still being fought over, a hundred years later. And in the middle of all this conflict are Commonwealth War Grave Cemeteries.
What cruel irony is it, that this young man’s final resting place, one hundred years after his war was fought, is embroiled in an ongoing conflict more than half as old?
Lest we forget. The past, but also the present.
Commonwealth Cemetery, Gaza City, April 2019.
She also sent me a link to a CBC news story. It’s from 2008 but still as pertinent today with the ongoing fighting as it was when the writer first filed An unlikely oasis for Canada’s fallen peacekeepers. But it makes me wonder if Ibrahim Jeradeh’s family has survived the fighting and are still tending to the graves.
Which brings me back to “you people”. Half way across the world Canadian graves are being tending to by “three generations of Palestinians who have dedicated their lives to tending the final resting places for the foreigners who died here.”
Here at home there is much to ponder in regards to wearing poppies and our veterans. How is it that Indigenous soldiers returned home to no rights as veterans? How is it that immigrants, who may themselves be or have family members that are veterans of our world conflicts, are made to feel inferior and alienated? How is it that veterans with PTSD have to fight to get support? How is it that the Government of any given day can cut funding and indeed close entire Veterans Affairs offices? All of the above does not come from “you people”.
Have we learnt nothing in the last 101 years since the end of the First World War? I want to believe, and do my share, to make Canada a tolerant caring country. It wasn’t long ago that my maternal side immigrated, that we were “you people” to the Indigenous who roamed this land.
Peace perfect peace is difficult to achieve with closed minds and open mouths; whether here at home or half way around the world.
It’s not often that I use my editor in house before I hit publish but I did with this one. I deleted the entire post once and then reworked it. I’ve been pondering, writing and editing for 3 days and still I hesitate to post. I, typical Canadian, don’t want to offend anyone but I want to initiate the discussion about racism and how it affects so many.