The following is the full version of a 2000 character-limited message I have just sent the Prime Minister’s Office:
Dear Hon. Prime Minister:
It is eleven o’clock in the morning on November 11th, and from where I sit writing this, the sounds and the silence of a ceremony at a war cenotaph come to me. The sounds: brutal, hoarse shouting of command that remind us of how brutal and unpleasant war is; the bagpipes and snare drums, the subdued prayer from the minister, the singing of our national anthem, now infused with a most solemn meaning.
I see from my window people wearing poppies to remember the war dead of the Great War, the most needless of all wars, and World War II, the most necessary and tragic, but followed all too quickly another in which some of Canada’s best men died to help to create one of the most democratic and prosperous countries today that exports everything from Samsung’s laptops to Psy’s hilarious dance tunes.
But I do not wear the tacky poppy,* nor will I attend the ceremony. There are no more Canadian Veterans of the Great War, and precious few of WWII or even the Korean War. The circumstances that produced those gigantic conflicts are long past, long gone.
But I remember.
I remember that horrible war is still with us as a species, and that our government, in an effort to help those less fortunate than ourselves, sends Canadian men and women into harm’s way in conflicts half way around the world. And I know that when those soldiers come home injured and traumatized, and no longer able to perform in the military, that we as a country abandon them to the cracks between our overestimated social welfare systems.
Just two weeks ago I read this in the Globe and Mail that soldiers who have fought overseas in places like Afghanistan are being forced to leave before they are eligible for their pensions.
Mr. Prime Minister: you lead a party that claims to pride itself on your support for the military, on your sense of our honour as a Canadian nation, and yet your government presides over great cruelty to the very men and women you claim to support. The “Harper Government’s” stance in regards to these veterans is entirely without honour.
I call on you, Mr. Prime Minister, to reverse the terrible decision that requires these soldiers who have been wounded in the call of duty to be set aside like so much discarded machinery. They should be allowed to stay in the military and collect their pay and their pensions. Each soldier who has been forced to leave the military under these circumstances should be reinstated and treated properly. On a day when the Senate allows the thieving likes of Senators Duffy, Barizeau, and Wallin to keep their medical benefits, how dare your government take the livelihoods and medical benefits away from the male and female veterans who need them most?
Please do not simply forward my email to the Minister of Defense. This situation requires your personal intervention. Please reverse these horrible decisions at once so that we can say that Canada does, indeed, treat its veterans with honour.
Thank you for considering this request.
*The poppy as a symbol is not at all tacky. It is poignant and beautiful. But the means for affixing it to one’s shirt is tacky–after half a century of poppies dropping from clothing or pricking their wearers, why has nothing better been designed?