Wednesday November 11, 2020

Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Wednesday November 11, 2020

Remember our war dead and a nation that endures

There will be no parades of aging veterans marching to Canada’s war memorials on this Remembrance Day and in this pandemic year.

There will be fewer wreaths laid at these monuments to the nation’s war dead and fewer people to lay them or stand silently to hear “Last Post” played at 11 a.m. by buglers who must keep their distance from everyone else.

In some places, the public has been ordered to stay away from the cenotaphs to stop the spread of COVID-19 and participate at home in virtual ceremonies or, alternatively, to simply put on a poppy and pause for two minutes wherever possible.

That’s how it must be. No matter where you are in Canada, this Remembrance Day will be unlike any in memory, and for this full blame lies with a microscopic and potentially lethal virus.

But there’s no reason this Remembrance Day can’t be as meaningful and, yes, instructive as every one that preceded it. In fact, as Canadians cope with a pandemic that has changed every aspect of their lives, what this country went through in the past facing enormous threats under extreme duress can inspire us today, in a very different kind of national emergency.

Of course, more than anything else, this Nov. 11 is a day when every person in this country should recall the sacrifices hundreds of thousands of Canadians made in two world wars, in the Korean and Afghanistan wars and in decades of peacekeeping and even peacemaking missions in the world’s hot spots.

More than 100,000 Canadians died in those 20th century wars and another 158 soldiers from this country perished in Afghanistan earlier this century. Hundreds of thousands of other Canadians have been permanently injured in body or mind by war.

Those who have served in this country’s military and emerged unscathed by the experience should be in our minds, too. Many of them put their lives on the line. All were in one way or another defending the interests of their country when it called. They all deserve our recognition and unflagging gratitude.

That deliberate act of remembering in this very strange year may bring unforeseen benefits, too. Like us today, the Canadians who lived through two world wars — the second of which was the most deadly and devastating in human history — also faced terrifying dangers, witnessed great suffering, experienced the painful loss of loved ones and had massive changes thrust upon them.

But the country got through it. For instance, in the Second World War, which dragged on six years, basic foods such as sugar, butter, tea, coffee and even meat were strictly rationed to Canadians at home so those serving overseas would have enough to eat.

The rationing of gasoline and tires limited travel and getting in or out of the United States became difficult. On the east coast, blackouts were strictly enforced with air raid wardens going door-to-door to ensure blinds were drawn so enemy submarines would not see merchant ships illuminated by city lights. Taxes were hiked as Ottawa ran up massive deficits to fund the war effort.

Renowned historian J.L. Granatstein has accurately described that war effort as “a complete mobilization of Canadian society” in which “Canadians consciously and deliberately set aside their individual desires for the common good.”

On this Remembrance Day, wear a poppy for the sake of those who served Canada and, too often, paid the greatest sacrifice in doing it. But remember, too, what other generations of Canadians have endured, what they gave up and how they prevailed. (Hamilton Spectator Editorial)

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