Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Not a day for debate

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Recently, United Kingdom Methodist preacher Rev. Patricia Jackson made the British news for announcing she refuses to wear a red poppy to the Remembrance Day ceremonies she will be officiating on Sunday.

Her refusal to wear a red poppy and her insistence that the traditional symbol of Remembrance Day "advocates war" sparked disgust in her congregation, fury across the virtual world, and indignation among those who have served in the armed forces.

Although protests against her stand were swift and strong, Reverend PJ, as she calls herself, is not alone in her views. She is just one of a growing group of people, here in Canada too, who feel it's acceptable to malign the sacrifices of the men and women who risked their lives for the freedom so many of us take for granted.

These people likely see themselves as a different type of warrior fighting an ideological battle against what they perceive Remembrance Day to be, a day of glorifying violence and death.

They might even feel justified in their ingratitude, because they view themselves as promoters of a more progressive, peaceful world. But all I see is a group of people with a disturbing level of vulgarity who don't appreciate the lives that were lost or damaged so that we may live free (or almost free) from tyranny.

Snap out of it, people. Show some respect. Soldiers and their families do not deserve your contempt.

There is no denying that war is horrendous. I don't know from personal experience, of course, having never served or lived in a war-torn country. I have, however, spoken to veterans who have been in the thick of all that ugliness. There are not enough adjectives in the English language to accurately capture just how terrible war is.

I am against war. Let me be explicit on that point. I am opposed to the extreme violence, social disruption and economic destruction that are a result of one group's desire for power over another. There is absolutely nothing glamorous about war. War should never be glorified.

At the same time I'm a realist. I would love it if we could all just get along. But that's never going to happen. We live in a painfully imperfect world where there will always be power-driven people who are run by their baser, uglier desires and tendencies. And we will always need a non-corrupt military to protect us everyday people from these types of control-hungry tyrants and terrorists.

Weapons and sometimes bloodshed are, unfortunately, necessary to provide this protection.

But the argument over the use or disuse of weapons isn't the true focus of Remembrance Day. The day is also not about portraying violence and death as ideal. It's not about elevating all military personnel to some strange, worship-worthy status. It's not even about debating the issue of war.

Remembrance Day is all about commemorating those honourable soldiers who stepped up and protected you and me from those relentlessly obsessed with power, abuse, invasion and genocide. It's about remembering those who lost their loved ones, their lives, their limbs, and even parts of their souls, to fight for people they have never, and may never, meet.

This year, like every year, I will happily donate money to the local Royal Canadian Legion's Poppy Fund. It helps veterans and their families with necessities such as shelter and clothing. I will take a poppy, or 10. And if one of my many poppies actually stays pinned to my clothes, I will wear that red flower proudly.

Most important, at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, I will take a moment out of my busy life to remember what the past and current, deceased and living military service members did for Canada, people all over the world and, indirectly, even me.

We have benefited so much. This civilian is humbled by what our Canadian soldiers have done and continue to do. Thank you.


Diana Moes VandeHoef is a Winnipeg

freelance writer.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 8, 2013 A1

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