Views From Kennewick

Monday, March 05, 2007

A British news paper salutes Canada . . . this is a good read. It is funny how it
took someone in England to put it into words...
Sunday Telegraph Article From today's UK wires: Salute to a brave and modest
nation - Kevin Myers, The Sunday Telegraph LONDON -
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 again.

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 its 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 attack. 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, 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 it's 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 on-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, but instead of being thanked for it, it remains
something of a figure of fun.

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 knew that cost all too tragically well.


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