I began this blog on November 11th, Remembrance Day yet again. I have some very skewed views about that day. There was a time, now very long ago, when I wore a military cadet’s uniform and was always on parade November 11th. I have stood at attention in the cold pouring rain and sleet with tears blurring my eyes as the bugler played the “Last Post”. The heavy blue wool uniform sponged up the rain and I don’t recall any joy, ever, about remembering our military fallen. Once on parade, just when ordered eyes left while passing the dignitary’s review stand, a pigeon shat on my blue RCAF wedge cap. The mess ran slowly down my face. Of course I dare not falter in my precise marching so I held my rifle and left-righted on down the street with the rest of my flight, a good little cadet. There is nothing colder than congealing pigeon crap on your face in full public view when you can do nothing about it except pretend that it is not there.
My love and respect for things military have congealed as coldly. Close to signing up for a military career, my mind was changed after enduring a summer training camp for NCOs (Non-commissioned officers) The weary mantras about do or die without question, and the screaming irrationalities of feckless little men intent on reducing everyone to mindless, quivering gitts forever ended my military fascination. I have become convinced that any dog which is easy to train and conforms readily without question is not a clever creature. The ones which resist being programed are the individuals with a questioning mind and true leadership potential. (Editing note: After a great offense was taken about the preceding two sentences I am adding the remark that it is a fact, not opinion, that standard military procedure, time and world wide, is to reduce new recruits through physical and mental torture and sleep deprivation until their personal will is gone and they can then be reprogramed as dedicated killer robots. Those whose spirits cannot be broken are discharged. The process is often referred to as ” Basic Training”, and also “Brainwashing.”)
There was a brief period at that time when I was almost persuaded to join two other buddies in going to fight in Vietnam. (There were approximately 30,000 invincible young Canadian volunteers who actually went) We thought it was a cool idea that the US Army would teach us how to fly helicopters, for free! When the one who went on ahead promptly came home again in a glad bag, a new reality set in. We weren’t that invincible after all.
He was one of the lucky ones I think. I went on to work in the commercial helicopter industry and have since known several Vietnam veterans. Very few of these characters have been able to live a healthy life. Most are haunted and troubled painfully for being the pawns in a sick game that had nothing to do with defending democracy or home borders. Canada continues to tag along after the US and has provided troops to several other forceful interventions entirely irrelevant to our interests and proclaimed values. Meanwhile our own messes continue to stack up in both our front and back yards.
Canadian patriotism is running high at the moment in the wake of the recent killings of CAF members in Ottawa and Montreal. I hold some unpopular views about what our military, or anyone’s for that matter, ultimately achieves other than to necessitate someone else’s military. I choose to observe the day as a review of human stupidity and greed and how our natural nastiness has to be dealt with inwardly instead of externally. How many oppossed millions have died believing God was on their side? If only we all indulged in tending our own patch first and employed righteous example instead of indignation, what a pleasantly boring world we’d have. Yeah, I know, I can hear John Lennon too.
November 11th was a clear, cool and windy day. Usually remembrance days are dark and wet, suiting the sombre business at hand. The first Arctic high of the winter advanced upon us with icy outflow winds. We had this weather for several days so there was a big scurry on to finish up outdoor chores. At my friend’s house, just as I was finishing the downstairs bathroom, water began pouring out of the ceiling light fixture. It turned out that rats had been snacking on the discharge hose of the dishwasher. Murphy’s law prevailed and the hose burst at a cosmically timed moment. I spent a while pondering what in the hell I could have possibly done to bring on the deluge. The rats came back for autumn and so has the hammering, incessant rain. Now the first official day of winter has passed and there were some very thick rain drops on the windshield. Today we have had clear, sunny, warm periods. T-shirt weather between more icy deluges. Ah well, it beats choking on a bagel in a snow drift in Buffalo. My helicopter pilot buddy who is in Northern Saskatchewan at the moment reports, “Broke down, temp -34”. It’s all relevant, we’ll continue to try to “Bloom where we’re planted.”
Old ‘Seafire’ languishes at her new mooring in the old shipyard. She feels bewildered I’m sure about all this ‘Do South’ sentiment and where it has gone. Soon honey, soon. We will do this thing. It’s a dull month with bright dreams to keep out the dark and cold. Soon honey, soon.
“Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm”. …Winston Churchill