Saturday, 9 May 2015

True North Strong and Free

I'm watching the VE Day celebrations on CBC right now as our war vets are being feted by the Dutch.

As an Inuk I have almost no linkages to those brave and inspiring Canadians, whom the Dutch clearly love and appreciate, save my citizenship to this great country of ours; as a first Canadian I realize that we have a collective, awesome responsibility to not waste, to "never forget" their sacrifice and their commitment to help their fellow human beings. Remember these Canadian soldiers so long ago were not conscripted servicemen but were in fact volunteers.

There was an observation offered by one of the talking heads a couple days ago that caught my attention when he mentioned that these Canadians really were of a different breed: stoic, humble and rather self-deprecating when asked to describe what it was like in the Second World War. They weren't fighting for noble ideals nor even against an enemy; they had seen the atrocities in Europe in news reels and wanted to help end that. Simple as that.

I'm certainly ambivalent about state-sanctioned violence but I have no problem understanding where our boys were coming from and I great admire their humanity. We know of a handful of Inuit who fought in WWII. They were of the same cloth: unfettered by any psychological BS they simply answered the call to help their fellow human beings.

Our current state of affairs would be alien and disappointing to them, I'd surmise.

I see Stephen Harper as a symbol for a great many things that I find "wrong" with our society but most of all he epitomizes, to me, the deliberate arrested development that resulted from the disastrous and long social experiment starting from the 1960s. Shamefully, I count myself among the children of these decades of frivolity, willful ignorance and uncritical (unmitigated) selfishness.

Randy Janzen is just one in the long, long line of this perversion, this hubris, this uncomprehending staring out into the maw of ethical and moral emptiness ( as much as the unhindered (perhaps unintended) bigotry, pettiness, and all negative characteristics that unfortunately marks the tenure of our current Prime Minister. He is after all a product of his times.

I've stared into this darkness (uncomprehendingly at first) but I consider it a great blessing this existential alienation from my parents, my grandparents and my culture in that it allowed me the opportunity to reflect upon how great the chasm was and had become through no fault of their own devising. I'm usually a bit too dense and self-absorbed to profit from my many mistakes in life but realizing how different I was and am (in all possible ways) from my parents stirred something deep within the darkness of my soul and I realized that there was something profoundly wrong with me.

The character of the liberating soldiers now celebrated in the Netherlands is the exact same character of my dad's generation. The twin fires of hardship and suffering seem to have a way of annealing the soul of the frivolous, the superficial but if and when we allow ourselves honest reflection and guard against embitterment from our personal experiences. The Book of Job talks of this at length, culminating in the 23rd chapter:

...if I go to the east, he is not there;
    if I go to the west, I do not find him.
When he is at work in the north, I do not see him;
    when he turns to the south, I catch no glimpse of him.
But he knows the way that I take;
    when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.
My feet have closely followed his steps;
    I have kept to his way without turning aside.
I have not departed from the commands of his lips;
    I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread. (Job 23: 8-12)

I am no saint and if I seem that I'm trying to give that impression I profusely and sincerely apologize. If anything has taken hold it is despite myself, and only and truly because of love—of those who have loved me, all of them contributing individually to the person I have become and am still becoming.

The words of my dying father to me were: be kind and compassionate. He knew who I was and how cruel, selfish and thoughtless I can be without guidance. I am not and never have been a demonstrative person of human affections, and I have largely reserved them only for my children (though I definitely feel it for my siblings, my mom and those who love/have loved me). My dad's last gift to me was a new perspective: people deserve respect (agape) because no human is an island.

This is the message I take away from the VE celebrations from Apeldoorn, the Netherlands.


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