Last Friday across both Canada and the U.S. many people gathered and paused in remembrance of our fellow citizens who have served in the military. We do it every year, on November 11. Here we call it Remembrance Day; it’s called Veterans Day in the U.S.
We say we honor these men and women. But do we really, and why? We do, in a way. One of our local RCMP members estimated that probably 300 of us gathered in downtown Keremeos for our local honoring ceremony. I was moved by that. And since then I asked a handful or more people, “What do we honor them for?” Three related words were used in their responses: free, safe, and secure. “They defended our Freedom”, “…our national (and global) Security”, …to keep us safe from terrorists”.
Security, safety, freedom: We say that we value them, and we say we honor those who have defended them. But after we gather downtown for an hour and then take off our poppies for another year, do we still hold these values, or do we trivialize them? And do we still honor the women and men who have defended them?
Security, safety, and freedom are not just global issues, and not even just national ones. At their roots, they are local. They are tangibly real in our immediate communities, and in each home, and for each of our neighbors and families and children and friends, or they are not real at all. There are women and children (and men too) – on your street – who are not secure in their own homes, because of various reasons. There are kids in Keremeos (and Cawston and Olalla and all over) who are not safe, either at school nor on the internet because of bully-terrorists. There are elder citizens (not solely, but especially) who are not free to walk the streets without risk of ridicule or assault, or not safe from abuse. I do not mean to be alarmist, nor to demean the real and effective efforts of parents and police and school administrators and neighbors and teachers who address these issues both responsively and responsibly. What I do mean is to help us realize that it is not just those members of the military who unselfishly serve us whose job it is to secure our freedoms and safety. We are all enlisted in this effort and cause. It is, and has to be, a grassroots effort. And to the degree that we are not all vigilant, and caring enough to acknowledge rather than ignore home-town issues, and courageous enough to report them when we are aware of them and speak out in defense of anyone we know whose rights of freedom and safety and security are compromised right here and right now – to that degree we are not honoring but demeaning those who have served us and our nation through their military valor. They have not put their lives on the line to defend our freedom to abuse others, nor to tolerate abuse. No one should be free to do that. Freedom is worth defending only as it serves the causes of safety, security, and civility. And maybe the practice of kindness. Let’s remember that. And thanks to our local Legion for our fine Remembrance Day event.
Ron Shonk, PVPP Coordinator (PVPP is the Lower Similkameen’s Proactive Violence Prevention Project, www.lscss.com)