To the Editor:
I want to publicly thank Peace River Mayor Tom Tarpey for the inspiring and insightful address he provided at the Remembrance service in Peace River today. In his opening remarks Mayor Tarpey raised heroics of the Newfoundland Regiment, among the first troops to assault Vimy Ridge during the WWI.
He acknowledged the ultimate sacrifice and conviction these brave soldiers demonstrated in defence of our liberty. Sitting in the second row a man who as a young boy growing up on the Rock was not familiar of the stories of the heroics of these brave soldiers. Of the 801 men of the Regiment that stormed the hill that day only 68 remained to answer the roll call the next day.
I went home after the service and checked the Canadian government “Virtual War Memorial” and discovered in my small Newfoundland home town eight brave souls gave their lives during WWI, four on that fateful day of April 14, 1917. The youngest of the eight was 18 and the oldest was 26.
Mayor Tarpey went on to say that the sacrifice of these brave men, and of many more men and women, from all walks of life have led to an open and democratic country which is a beacon of tolerance and inclusiveness in the world today.
I have a sense that many share my concern that the rise of populism, fueled by intolerance and in some instances, down right hatred, poses a very real threat to the ideals our families and fellow citizens have sacrificed to build and sustain. Like the lady next to me at the ceremony today who said she hadn’t been to a Remembrance ceremony in years but felt the need to be there today with everything that is going on in the world.
As someone who has long been passionate about the democratic ideals that inform our laws, governance and way of life in Canada I have gratefully always felt that whatever the difference in political stripe (right, left or centre and various shades thereof) there has been a respectful and shared sense of common purpose to achieve a fair, just, and prosperous society for all. A sense of, “that we which we desire for ourselves we desire for others” just different notions of how we get there.
Unfortunately, much of the “relatively” thoughtful, factual and considerate discourse that I have enjoyed during the course of my 59 years appears to be in severe decline. Increasingly, people appear to be content to adopt ideals absent of facts, compassion and consideration. As a friend recently said “too many of us are isolated in our internet or social bubble” immune from debate, challenge and accountability for our views.
In recent years and in particular the last number of days we have seen populist leaders exploiting division in the world, capitalizing on a sense of “those others” who they hold up as our greatest threat.
Unfortunately, often the only way to easily identify “these others” they choose to exploit for their own political ambition is visibly. Beyond the abhorrent nature of this type of attack is the obvious fact that this sentiment of singling out people and groups in our midst will not resolve our problems, those who subscribe to this view will simply cast the net wider and wider until there is virtually no one left to blame.
In fact, it was these very ideals that led to the greatest number of our fallen Soldiers. If we truly desire to remember the sacrifices of our veterans we must not only respect and treat with reverence the principles of justice and freedom which they fought and died for, but we must acknowledge and understand the ideology they have defended us from.
If there is one thing history teaches it is that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it; this condensed version of the statement of Protestant German Pastor Martin Niemöller sums up the state to which our world is dangerously close to returning:
When the Nazis came for the communists, I remained silent;
When they locked up the social democrats, I remained silent;
When they came for the trade unionists, I did not speak out;
When they came for the Jews, I remained silent;
When they came for the Catholics, I remained silent;
When they came for the Protestants, I remained silent;
When they came for me, there was no one left to speak out.
Niemöller spent eight years in German prisons for his resistance to the Nazi regime.
This Remembrance Day in addition to honouring the memories of those siblings of both of my parents who either gave their lives or gave of their lives in defence of our freedoms I will strive to not only remember but acknowledge and honour the civic responsibility that comes with and price paid for the freedoms and rights that we enjoy.
Thank you to the Legion for providing this Remembrance Service.