Friday, November 2, 2012

Why I'm Wearing A Poppy This Year

Three days ago I participated in a small gesture which only takes 2 to 3 seconds and which hundreds of thousands - if not millions - of Canadians participate in each year. I placed a few coins in a box, took a red and black poppy from it, and pinned it to the lapel of my coat.

Yesterday while riding the transit system a man in his 50's made a point to thank me for wearing it. Was he a veteran? Was his father? Was he just patriotic? I'll never know. I gave him a kindly nod as we got off the bus.

When you read the title of this blog, perhaps your first question was "Why wouldn't you wear a poppy?"

I haven't worn a poppy on my jacket for a few years now, and there are a few reasons/thoughts/questions that I've had for not doing so:

  • Are we glorifying war each November 11th when we pay homage to those who have fought in our country's name? 
  • Are war veterans any more heroic than our peacekeepers?
  • Has Canada steered away from peacekeeping to fighting in wars?
  • Are we teaching our children that those who fight are somehow more honourable?
These and others are loaded questions for sure. This year, however, I have come to a couple of different conclusions. Firstly, I've realized that my all-or-nothing approach to poppy-wearing probably has to do with being bi-polar (the either-or nature of the illness). For several years I chose not to wear one.  If I take a broader, more inclusive approach, I can see that I can honour those who have died for Canada's (and others) freedom as well as being committed to peacekeeping.

I also must realize that the vast majority of people who honour our veterans, and the veterans themselves - of WWII, Korea, Afghanistan, etc), are not glorifying war. They know first-hand that war and strife are hell, and they want peace just as much as I do, if not more.

I continue to have the attitude that we must always work tirelessly for peace, here at home and abroad. That is what Canada is known for. In a column in today's Waterloo Region Record, conflict-intervention trainer Matthew Bailey-Dick talks about the Suez Canal crisis of 1956, when France, Britain, and Israel "lurched toward an all-out war against Egypt over who controlled the Canal." The UN Security Council convened its first emergency session of the General Assembly, acknowledging that it "had failed to maintain international  peace and security."

Canada stepped up to the plate.

"Future prime minister Lester Pearson, then Canada’s minister of external affairs, led the Canadian delegation as the assembly met late into the night of Nov. 3. Based on earlier meetings with other international diplomats, Pearson decided that the UN was prepared for a daring proposal.

In the early hours of Nov. 4, Pearson stood before the general assembly and presented resolution A-3290, which called for the establishment of “an international peace and police force” that could intervene in the Suez conflict, thereby creating space for a political solution.

The General Assembly voted overwhelmingly in favour of Pearson’s resolution, and this set the stage for the United Nations Emergency Force — the UN’s first peacekeeping force, which was deployed in the following days. For his tireless diplomatic efforts, Pearson received Canada’s first Nobel Peace Prize."

So, on this Remembrance Day 2012, I want to honour those who have died for freedom, while remaining committed to the Canadian value of looking for peaceful solutions in global conflicts.

Lest I Forget.

Mark Andrew Alward