Good to remember, better to learn

It’s now 65 years since the end of WWII. That’s longer than many of us has been alive. Few people can say they remember WWII with clarity and there are fewer yet who have even the slightest childhood memory of WWI. My brothers remember bits and pieces of WWII. My oldest brother fought in the Korean war. Unfortunately, we all have memories of the war in Afghanistan and we have lost many soldiers in that war.
Millions of people have pondered how wars may be brought to an end. The hippies and beatniks of the 1960s were sure that laying down all arms was the answer. In theory, they were correct but it would take absolute compliance by every person in the world. Those of us who pondered and observed, or perhaps even participated in, the hippy movement  can sympathize with the intent but it’s just not going to happen. 
Canada’s role in war has been the correct role for the most part over the past 100 years. I daresay it has become more correct as each decade passes. The war in Afghanistan can be justified. Certainly, our role in Korea and Kosovo and Cyprus was justifiable.
What we can’t justify, and should rectify, is our lack of preparation. To send our troops to Afghanistan in glorified pick-up trucks was little short of criminal. I know liberal-minded people think that if we sent our troops out with little guns in little trucks, and especially if we painted them pink, that all would be well with the world. That might work if the enemy had some small shred of decency in their hearts but enraged enemies don’t work that way.
To make any kind of attempt to understand war one must understand that at least one party has no respect for life. Aggressors in war are driven by different motives than most Canadians. Most Canadians (and most Americans) value life, it’s precious and sacred. That isn’t how war-minded people, and especially war minded leaders, think. To them, people are numbers. People are assets, people are, to use the old expression, “cannon fodder”.  One death or a thousand deaths makes little difference to them.
As Canadians, we need to do everything we can to strengthen our society. As a member of the media, I can readily point fingers at our industry. When the media mocks family values, we should be offended, not titillated by their attempts at humour. Just try and find a movie or a TV show that shows loving, functional families with strong mothers and fathers, especially fathers. Families are mocked, men are mocked. It seems that all good is torn down and all bad things are built up.
We need to strengthen our society and send a strong message that Canada was built by strong families, dare I say strong Christian families, and that we need to preserve that value system. Canadians value life and on that foundation we can stand strong as a nation.
That said, we need to stop being ready for the last war. Even a summary review of our war history from the past 100 years shows that we have never been ready for any war. The troops in WWI were sent off to battle with shoddy equipment, poor rifles, bad food and in many cases poor training and worse officers. In WWII we sent tiny ships out into the North Atlantic with wooden guns and poorly clothed sailors. We were ready to fight WWII by the time it ended. We didn’t carry that preparation forward and we were ill-equiped to fight the war on the mountains and the seas of Korea. In Cyprus, our soldiers were at times on a battle field without bullets. In Afghanistan we sent them in with the wrong colour of uniforms and driving the above mentioned pick-up trucks.
Now we are still debating if 40 year old helicopters and 30 year old jet fighters can hang on for a few more years. We are on one hand a proud country but on the other hand, we are a disgrace. We can find funding for every protest group that crawls out from under a rock on some university campus but we can’t get the colours right on our soldiers’ camouflage. That’s disgusting. We can spend millions, perhaps billions on every non-descript little idea and protest but we can’t protect our troops.
My grandfather, my father, four of my uncles and my brother saw all this political garbage first hand. 
To see it continue is intolerable. Recent municipal elections across Canada have seen a groundswell of discontent as voters moved towards a more pragmatic, cost conscious (right-wing??) agenda. May that sweep continue in our province and in our country so  the deaths of our troops will not be in vain. Those who lived and died to make Canada great deserve a better tribute than we are currently giving them.
At this time, we say, “We will remember them.” That’s great, but will we also need to learn from a 100 years of political bungling and stumbling?  We need to honour our veterans and ancestors by being prepared to fight a war to defend what they fought to preserve. We need to say, “We will learn from them” as well as, “We will remember them”!

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