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What is two minutes of your time worth this Remembrance Day?

No matter what I’m doing on Nov. 11, I always take two minutes around 11 a.m. to stand still in silence, remembering those who fought so that the rest of us could live free of tyranny and oppression. The people who died, who suffered, and who sacrificed their lives

I remember when I worked at Tim Hortons during my university days, I asked my employer if we were going to stop and take part in two minutes of silence for Remembrance Day. He said no. I told him (not asked him) that I would be participating and walked into the back room. I stood for those two minutes, listening to The Last Post, tears welling up in my eyes. I was proud to stand there and, for a short amount of time, dedicate all my thoughts and my love to those men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice.

As I did this, everyone else kept working. Customers ordered their coffee and sandwiches. My colleagues worked overtime to make sure they got their food in a timely manner. The phone was ringing off the hook. No one stopped. No one listened to the bugle ringing out. No one cared.

My heart broke.

This wasn’t the last time I would experience this kind of indifference to Canada’s veterans. At numerous workplaces I’ve had to ask my employer to allow me to participate in Remembrance Day ceremonies, or to keep a livestream of the event running on my computer. Most of the time, the employer will agree. But no one else is interested. No one else feels the need to take initiative and say “we may have a meeting at 11 a.m., but can we make it 11:05 a.m. so that those who want to pay their respects to this country’s veterans can do so without repercussions?” And no employer was volunteering to make that change.

My father instilled in me a strong sense of respect for our veterans. My grandfather was a paratrooper during the Second World War and while I was pretty close with him during the few years he was alive, I never felt closer to him than on Remembrance Day. I would go every year, skipping class if need be, to the war memorial to pay tribute. I would meet up with friends and we would stand there and listen to the speeches and watch as the wreaths were laid by the site. And then we would stand in silence, listening as gunshots were fired. Thousands of people would be crowded on the streets, and yet there was not a pin drop to be heard. It was enough to make you cry.

One day in early 2000, my dad sent me this video. It was Terry Kelly singing a song called “A Pittance of Time,” and it perfectly summed up my feelings towards Remembrance Day. Actually, it impacted me so much that every year I search for the song on Youtube.

The song was based on Kelly’s personal experience. He was in a drug store in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia when an announcement came over the stores PA asking customers who would still be on the premises at 11:00 AM to give two minutes of silence in respect to the veterans who have sacrificed so much for us. The customers, however, weren’t having it. They wanted to pay for their items and move on with their day.

Sadly, nothing has changed.

Next year will mark the 100th anniversary of the First World War. There are no veterans from that war still alive. Despite these facts, less and less people show up to these Remembrance Day ceremonies to offer their respect. Less people are wearing the poppy and less people are taking those two minutes to remember.

And that’s a shame.

Just imagine

By  George Patrick

Imagine, if you can, a new and better Canada — a Canada free of those vices that cause so much havoc in our lives — a Canada free of alcohol, cigarettes, illegal drugs, and gambling.

Imagine a booze-free Canada where drunken drivers no longer slaughter innocents, leaving devastated families behind.

Think of a Canada where there is no tobacco addiction. Think of the enormous savings on healthcare if nobody smoked.

Imagine a Canada free of illegal drugs. No more pathetic addicts and the crimes they commit to feed their habits.
And imagine no gambling. No lives ruined, and no families destroyed, by the uncontrollable need to place one more bet, play one more slot, buy one more lottery ticket, back one more horse.

Can you imagine a Canada like that? As a nation, Canada would undoubtedly be much healthier and wealthier. Crime would go down, prisons would close, police forces shrink. In short, Canada would be a much better society. Who could not want that?

Of course, to bring about this new Canada, there would need to be a strong central government commanding support in all regions of the country, and unfortunately, that is rarely the case in Canada. Typically, the Liberals are weak in the West, the Conservatives are weak in Ontario. The government might need some outside support — some temporary back-up — in its laudable attempt to stamp out the terrible addictions that plague our society.

So let’s imagine once again. This time imagine a new, cutting edge international force — the New Addiction Transformation Organization (or NATO for short). At the behest of the United Nations, it intervenes in Canada to bolster the weak central government in its noble pursuit of a new improved, non-addictive Canada. It quickly sets about bulldozing casinos, smashing slot machines and liquor stores, turning Woodbine Racetrack into an organic farm, and spraying Agent Orange on BC marijuana fields.

Around the country many people resent this assault on their traditional way of life. Opposition grows. Angry citizens begin to purchase large amounts of ammo for their unregistered firearms. Increasingly, the NATO forces are seen as invaders trying to force their alien ways on the Canadian people. Illegal booze, cigarettes and weapons flood in from the USA.

The slaughter, destruction, chaos and terror seep into every corner of Canadian society. After seven years and thousands of deaths, NATO throws up its hands, declares victory and skedaddles.

Within 12 months, Canada is showing signs of recovery. Jack Daniels is once again plentiful; racetracks and casinos spring up again; more people than ever before are smoking; and junkies lie around with needles in their arms. Canada is Canada once again. And they all live happily ever after (sort of). The End.

OK, you’re right. This story isn’t really about Canada at all. It’s a fiendishly cunning literary device to make a point about our involvement in Afghanistan.

Chances are, nothing like my little fairy tale will ever happen here.  How strange then that people think we can intervene in utterly alien, primitive tribal societies and transform them in a few short years into some kind of liberal democracy.

Sooner or later, our intervention will fail; the people of Europe and Canada will demand the recall of NATO forces; the corrupt, ineffectual, and unpopular “democratic” government will fall; some Talibanish kind of theocracy will return; and the girls schools will become schools where boys will learn radical Islamicist propaganda. I wish it weren’t so, but that is almost certainly what is going to happen. Anyone who thinks this Afghan venture is going to have a happy ending is dreaming in technicolour, and unfortunately the dream is being paid for with Canadian blood.

 First published in Dec. 2006