Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Oh, Canada

I admit to a sort of love-hate relationship with our Canadian friends to the north. On one hand, they love their hockey, they have a national anthem that is 10 times cooler than ours (a subject I've been meaning to blog about and will get around to in a few days) and they have all those great Tim Horton's donut shops.

On the other hand, they've grown very politically unreliable in the past couple of decades. The political correctness that infects American society is even worse in the Great White North, with their absurd "Human Rights Commission" that attacks free speech (here is a great example) and the bankrupt (morally and financially) socialist health care system, similar to the one Obama and Nancy Pelosi are trying to impose on us.

But here's the tie-breaker that comes down in Canada's favor: They remember - and honor - their veterans.

Today is Veterans Day here in the U.S., and chances are that the only way most people will notice it is when their mail isn't delivered and their bank branch isn't open.

In Canada, they call it "Remembrance Day," and it's more than a day, it's a week or so of honoring military veterans, and it seems like everyone up there remembers.

The symbol of Remembrance Day is the poppy flower (pictured here), immortalized in the poem 'In Flanders Fields," and it seems as though everyone in Canada wears their poppy the week before and in the days after Remembrance Day.

"In Flanders Fields" was written by a Canadian World War I officer, Lt.-Colonel John McCrae, who saw poppies growing alongside the gravesites of fallen comrades.

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders Fields.

The lines, "To you from failing hands we throw The torch; be yours to hold it high" are painted on the wall of the Montreal Canadiens locker room.

When you watch a hockey game in Canada this time of year, every TV commentator, every coach and - it seems - every fan in the stands has their poppy on their lapel. Last night the Wild played in Toronto, and the pre-game ceremony took almost 20 minutes as five different war veterans were introduced on the ice and received standing ovations.

Then Johnny Bower, the Maple Leafs Hall of Fame goalie, read "In Flanders Fields," and a young Canadian officer sang one of the most stirring renditions of "O, Canada" that you will ever hear.

(Bower, by the way, joined the Canadian Army at age 15, having lied about his age, and spent four years in Europe during World War II. He returned to Canada after the war and still had a year of junior hockey eligiblity left!) Here he is as a Maple Leaf (he won four Stanley Cups), and today:

It was an incredibly moving ceremony, and both teams stood on the ice the entire time, tapping their sticks on the ice in that great hockey applause way as each veteran was introduced.

The day clearly means more to most Canadians than it does to most Americans, but try to take a moment today - the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month - to remember that every freedom we enjoy was made possible by millions of brave men and women, many of whom made the ultimate sacrifice in the defense of freedom.

1 comment:

  1. Beautifully written, as always. Thank you.