Remembrance Day is fast approaching in two short days. We don’t claim to “celebrate” Remembrance Day, but instead, we “commemorate” it, which really means that we commemorate all of the brave men and women who have served our country and continue to serve our country to ensure our freedoms. There is never a bad time to thank a veteran.
At this time last year, a veteran from Florida gave an interview to Fox News on his 100th birthday in which he broke down in tears, lamenting the loss of the America he once knew. “That’s not what they died for,” he said in the interview, referring to his fellow veterans who never made it home. I have always wished that the interview had gone on longer. I want to know what he means. I want to know what specific things this gentleman feels are wrong with his country.
I absolutely agree with one of the veteran’s first statements in the interview, “People don’t know what they have”. This is true – many unhappy people would be much happier if they appreciated the life that Canada, the USA and other developed countries give them, particularly in comparison to other places around the world.
Then there is that tricky little complicated and heavily nuanced word – freedom. Why do we say, when talking about veterans’ devotion and sacrifices, that they fought for our “freedom”? Simply put, it’s because there have been many groups and even entire countries at different points in history that have sought to rob us of our freedom. Using WWII as an example, does anyone truly believe the Nazis would not have taken over the entire world if given the opportunity? Nobody was free in Nazi occupied areas during WWII, considering that survival depended on allegiance.
Another example that hits closer to modern times – groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS would surely push a magic button labelled “Make Entire World Follow Sharia Law”, if such a button existed. These groups have openly talked about their desire to convert the entire world and kill so-called “infidels”. We rely on our military to keep these groups at bay.
Members of the military have many tasks and duties, both abroad and at home. Their most important job has always been (and will always be) protecting our freedoms when groups and leaders seek to take them from us. The problem, if there is one, lies in the question: “What is freedom?”
There is virtually no argument I can make against a 100-year-old veteran (I suppose 101 years old now, if he’s still with us) that won’t make me come across as a total jerk. That said, I’m not arguing with him, per se, since he doesn’t go into detail about what faults he finds with his country. However, it’s important to note that being free to conform to veterans’ views of what the country should look like is not freedom at all. Veterans didn’t serve their country to be able to impose their views. They didn’t serve so that they could have more power or influence by flouting the fact of their bravery and sacrifice. Most served and continue to serve in the name of true, uninhibited freedom, expecting no greater say or influence in how their country is run than anyone else. That fact alone makes their sacrifice so incredibly noble, selfless, honourable, and commendable.
Those who served bravely and continue to serve have done their job – we remain free. Are we making a mockery of this freedom? As a society, I don’t believe that we are. Politically, the story may be different. Perhaps the American veteran from the video was concerned that President Trump had done irreparable damage to the country, and that such damage was continuing under President Biden. Trump is heavily known for things such as openly mocking a disabled reporter, and proudly confessing to engaging in aggressive sexual advances toward women. Don’t even get me started on Biden or Trudeau…
I wish once again that we knew more about what our veteran friend was referring to. If it was politics, I agree, we need our politicians to stop wrecking our countries with unwanted policies, punitive taxes, and downright incompetence. If instead, the veteran was referring to social values, then I disagree. The world will always evolve, and social values are bound to change. People like to complain about “kids today” – well I work with those kids, and they’re great. Honest, respectful, empathic, hard working, and smart… values that would surely make any veteran proud.
The Times website recently had a comment added to an older article I wrote about self-checkout machines, and the commenter was quick to point out how today’s young generation is “ever so lazy” with an assortment of other harsh and small-minded comments. I disagree (obviously) – I think that every generation has hard workers and lazy people, kind souls and mean spirits, honourable citizens and untrustworthy slimeballs. They are all free, and that is all a veteran should ever be worried about. Some teenagers (and adults) may be lazy, some older folks (and teenagers) may be grumpy. Our national anthem reminds us of the importance of “true patriot love”, but it never hurts to also remember that our veterans fought for true patriot laziness, grumpiness, and ultimately… freedom. Character flaws are human nature. The freedom to be flawed without suffering persecution is true freedom indeed.
Thank a veteran. Buy them a coffee, buy them lunch, help them carry their groceries, or simply hold out a hand and say “thank you”. November is a great time to do it, but there is never a bad time. Lest we forget.