Tuesday, November 11, 2008

This morning I participated in Remembrance Day ceremonies at the Canadian Pacific Railway headquarters in Calgary (Alberta). "In the decades before the Second World War, the Canadian Pacific Railway, with its headquarters in Montreal, Quebec, was the largest transportation company in the world. Source: The Role of the CPR Ships in
World War II
. Besides providing human resources to the armed effort of both wars, it also contributed its rolling stock and pioneered trans-Atlantic Bomber Ferry Services. Many of the bigger rail yards were converted to factories making munitions, artillery and tanks.

The service held today was small, but well-attended, and dignified. I waited until the service was over to take some of these images.

After this morning's Remembrance Day service I walked uptown (south) to Union Cemetery. There is a small Cenotaph there with some graves of servicemen. By looking at the dates, it is an assumption on my part to believe most died of wounds received during World War One. although there are a few that pre-date Armistice Day.

As I was approaching these grounds i noticed a young soldier in cammo fatigues come into the site from the other side. He looked for a few minutes for a what seemed to be a particular grave. Having found it he squatted and remained looking at it for while. My curiosity so much wanted to know more, however I did not approach him. Instead I took off my hat, and did my best to walk quietly around his position. Shortly afterwards, he acknowledged me, got into a car and left. I spent some more time in the immediate area taking photographs.


Monday, November 10, 2008

Another War

It has become cliché to note that the First World War, “The Great War,” was supposed to be the war that ended all wars.

Of course that was not true. There have been many conflagrations since November 11, 1918. Being a child of the Sixties, by the time I was getting old enough to understand my environment in early grade school, Hollywood was purporting the Second World War with stories of heroics, and honour and glory like so many writers have through the ages when retelling history. The only difference is that most of what I was learning was coming though a lens and a tube. There was no brutality to war. John Wayne may have died in one flick, but he was back again next year in another movie. I don’t want to go all rock-hard on Hollywood. It has given me some great entertainment over the years. However, that place and particularly the industry that made it famous, is the last place one goes to find truth.


Yes, war was always candy-coated until now. More modern films are shredding that treatment to offer the brutality of what war is really about. That is not say truth-telling has become the banner. No, most people would find that boring or indigestible. Even a film like Passchendale, noted to be historically accurate in its making, eventually boils down to being a piece of fiction; a love story, based on real events. However, what it and its kind depict is that war is hell. Those who fight it are not thinking about glory for empire. They are fighting to kill the enemy; to make it out alive with as many buddies as possible.


I grew up wanting to soldier. I never did, and perhaps to God I am thankful. Not to say I don’t believe in honouring those that do. Tomorrow will find me at one of the Remembrance Services being held in Calgary. I sometimes used to think that I once was (as if I had another life) a soldier; that I had experienced battle. However, with the knowledge I have accumulated through the years of reading and investigating I am more inclined to have great empathy with our warriors of old and present. Knowing the harshness of war, and what it leaves behind n its wake, I cannot be convinced that war is good. War is a complete failure to argue with reason toward resolving wrongs. I know the Books of Moses are filled with wars and battles purported by the Israelites. Were they necessary? Were they just? Yet, we are not Bronze-aged tribes. We are far removed and have different philosophies and understandings towards reconciliation. But we still fight.


Like so many Canadians I would prefer that we would have peace; that our troops would be deployed to be peacekeepers. Nevertheless, I would not advocate for stripping them of their ability to make war. That’s what happened in the Seventies with the governments of the day. Until there is such a time where our nation should feel no threat from anyone, we need to have a strong military.


Do we need to remain in Afghanistan? My answer may be contradictory to the very argument above, but yes we do. The reason is that until the threat of the Taliban is eliminated or until a time when both Afghanistan and Pakistan have a sound security through all their lands, we are at risk. There is evidence that the Taliban want to carve out control of the region in southern Afghanistan and northern Pakistan. It may even be their intent to seize control of Pakistan. If you remember, that country has nuclear munitions. In which case, the world is at risk. A failed state and ability to wage nuclear war for the sake of religious superiority is a bad mix. I trust that our army’s presence in Kandahar is bringing about some good. It would seem the rest of NATO doesn’t want to become bloodied. So we take the hits. I trust that if things get worse we can do something about it too.


The brutality of another war continues. It’s another war that nobody wants. So were the last big ones. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain tried to negotiate with Adolph Hitler to keep his empire out of that war. The United States of America tried to delay entry into the Second World War until it was forced to by Japan. We know of the atrocities that occurred on both sides. What if the Allies never formed, and Germany and Japan were allowed to cut a swath of the world for their own. What would this Earth be like today? Certainly the Taliban are not like what hose world powers were like then. Still, it’s the principle that people are being hurt and oppressed. Are we to stand by and allow that to continue unchecked? What if it was us? Would we not welcome help? I maintain I want peace, but believe in limited and justifiable use of force to get it. Standing up for the oppressed and resisting evil seems t be okay with me. God forgive us all.





Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Excerpt from "The Case for Partisanship"

Is polarization along political lines healthy for how a nation is governed? I used to wonder why watching the Parliamentary Channel of Question Period sometimes the Opposition Party just didn’t agree with the government on what was overall good legislation. Why, I would ask, is it necessary to resort to catcalling and buffoonery? Why not more cooperation? There was time in American politics when there was more cooperation, and sometime the blending of party lines. This actually caused more harm on forming internal policies, according to Matthew Yglesias, author of "The Case for Partisanship," (The Atlantic, April 2008). Opposition parties are task to oppose the government, and to show to their constituents that they represent their concerns.


That said, what usually causes the rise of new [political] parties, or the loosening and confusion of existing ones, is the emergence of new social conflicts that are so overwhelmingly important that they strain the existing coalitions, scrambling party position on everything else. Despite the ferocious rhetoric, the new issues of recent years – primarily related to sex and religion – haven’t been controversial enough to disturb the existing [Republican and Democratic] alignment. Perhaps religion will one day do that, causing the depolarization of the parties along economic and foreign-policy lines, or the rise of a viable party in some states. But of course, this cure for polarized parties would be worse than the disease. Strong clashes between coherent parties aren’t a sign that the country is flying apart – they mean we’re getting along better than we think.


As it applies to Canadian politics what we experienced in the last session of Parliament was not dysfunction as claimed by the Conservative government. The polarization between the said party and its primary opposition was operating as expected. There probably was a lack of willingness to compromise and give up control by Stephen Harper. There probably was internal conflict within the Liberal Party. Yet, the government of the land was working. Therefore, it can be reasonably argued Prime Minister Harper violated the public trust to call a federal election, despite having created a law for fixed election dates, on the above premise. I maintain the position, that the Canadian action group Democracy Watch is pursuing through the Federal Court, that the current government is illegitimate. It knowingly broke the law for opportunistic reasons. If it believes it can do so without penalty, it will certainly try to do so again.