Iain (ummacnai) wrote,

Rememberance Day Follow-up

from the English Sunday Telegraph of Thursday,
November 13, 2008.

The heading in the newspaper was "Salute to a brave and
modest nation".

"Until the deaths of Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan , probably
almost no one outside their home country had been aware that Canadian
troops are deployed in the region.

And as always, Canada will bury its dead, just as the rest of the
world, as always will forget its sacrifice, just as it always forgets
nearly everything Canada ever does.. It seems that Canada 's historic
mission is to come to the selfless aid both of its' friends and of
complete strangers, and then, once the crisis is over, to be well and
truly ignored.

Canada is the perpetual wallflower that stands on the edge of the hall,
waiting for someone to come and ask her for a dance. A fire breaks out,
she risks life and limb to rescue her fellow dance-goers, and suffers
serious injuries. But when the hall is repaired and the dancing
resumes, there is Canada, the wallflower still, while those she once
helped, glamorously cavort across the floor, blithely neglecting her yet

That is the price Canada pays for sharing the North American continent
with the United States, and for being a selfless friend of Britain in
two global conflicts.

For much of the 20th century, Canada was torn in two different
directions: It seemed to be a part of the old world, yet had an address
in the new one, and that divided identity ensured that it never fully
got the gratitude it deserved.

Yet it's purely voluntary contribution to the cause of freedom in two
world wars was perhaps the greatest of any democracy. Almost 10% of
Canada 's entire population of seven million people served in the armed
forces during the First World War, and nearly 60,000 died. The great
Allied victories of 1918 were spearheaded by Canadian troops, perhaps
the most capable soldiers in the entire British order of battle.

Canada was repaid for its enormous sacrifice by downright neglect, it's
unique contribution to victory being absorbed into the popular memory
as somehow or other the work of the 'British.'

The Second World War provided a re-run. The Canadian navy began the war
with a half dozen vessels, and ended up policing nearly half of the
Atlantic against U-boat attacks. More than 120 Canadian warships
participated in the Normandy landings, during which 15,000 Canadian
soldiers went ashore on D-Day alone.

Canada finished the war with the third-largest navy and the fourth
largest air force in the world. The world thanked Canada with the same
sublime indifference as it had the previous time.

Canadian participation in the war was acknowledged in film only if it
was necessary to give an American actor a part in a campaign in which
the United States had clearly not participated - a touching
scrupulousness which, of course, Hollywood has since abandoned, as it
has any notion of a separate Canadian identity.

So it is a general rule that actors and filmmakers arriving in
Hollywood keep their nationality - unless, that is, they are Canadian.
Thus Mary Pickford, Walter Huston, Donald Sutherland, Michael J. Fox,
William Shatner, Norman Jewison, David Cronenberg, John Candy, Alex
Trebek, Art Linkletter and Dan Aykroyd have in the popular perception
become American, and Christopher Plummer, British.

It is as if, in the very act of becoming famous, a Canadian ceases to be
Canadian, unless she is Margaret Atwood, who is as unshakably Canadian
as a moose, or Celine Dion, for whom Canada has proved quite unable to
find any takers.

Moreover, Canada is every bit as querulously alert to the achievements
of its sons and daughters as the rest of the world is completely unaware
of them. The Canadians proudly say of themselves - and are unheard by
anyone else - that 1% of the world's population has provided 10% of the
world's peacekeeping forces.

Canadian soldiers in the past half century have been the greatest
peacekeepers on Earth - in 39 missions on UN mandates, and six on non-UN
peacekeeping duties, from Vietnam to East Timor, from Sinai to Bosnia.

Yet the only foreign engagement that has entered the popular
non-Canadian imagination was the sorry affair in Somalia , in which
out-of-control paratroopers murdered two Somali infiltrators. Their
regiment was then disbanded in disgrace - a uniquely Canadian act of
self-abasement for which, naturally, the Canadians received no
international credit.

So who today in the United States knows about the stoic and selfless
friendship its northern neighbour has given it in Afghanistan ?

Rather like Cyrano de Bergerac , Canada repeatedly does honourable
things for honourable motives. It is the Canadian way, for which
Canadians should be proud, yet such honour comes at a high cost. This
past year more grieving Canadian families know that cost all too
tragically well.

Lest we forget."
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