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4 more Canadians killed in A/Stan: PM Harper speaks of “heroism”

March 22, 2009

Does Prime Minister Harper hope to grow intolerance for any questioning of Canada’s role in the Afghanistan war, by repeatedly espousing death as heroism?

Are the Canadian media too compliant in reporting phrases such as, “the deaths of four young soldiers…reminds us once again of the sacrifices these people make, …to give us what we have today.”

This latter comment in a speech the P.M. made to the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters in Mississauga, Ontario.

That Capt. Roy Laudenorio, battle group padre for 3rd Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment (Petawawa, ON) states, “the soil of this land will, hopefully, remember heroes who gave up their lives for a future not yet fully born,” is understandable, perhaps admirable. He’s there, he serves, he sees the flower of our youth, die.

To die in battle for one’s country is a trope so deeply embedded in our collective psyche, particularly in the long arm of the “Western Canon” – I sing of the arms and the man – that to question death as heroism seems still, long after Sartre and Vietnam, after Berrigan, and Baez, a heresy.

Since the meeting with President Obama earlier this year, have our elected leaders been fomenting a drive to silence opposition to the war in Afghanistan by linking acceptance of the “Mission” to patriotism, in a kind of Bush II Redux, just as the United States’ public sphere, now more than ever, questions such linkages?

Today’s moving NATO tribute/spectacle – thousands of troops lined the Kandahar Airfield to bid farewell to our newly dead – perhaps can be juxtaposed by this: the 1964 movie, The Americanization of Emily. The film heaps scorn on the premise that dying in war equals not only heroism, but that death justifies the sacrifice, and that we only exist in a free and stable society because of war.

James Garner, Julie Andrews, and Melvn Douglas (all patriots in WWII) star in a script by Paddy Chayefsky – his satire includes heart-breaking scenes depicting a sweet, good, middle-class British family, who for generations, have given their men-folk to God, Country and the Military and are sick of it.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. kerri permalink
    December 19, 2009 11:35 am

    In Canada we have a prime minister Steven Harper does he care, quite a few of us believe not. Steven is supposed to be the father of our country but yet this war he has killed off hundreds. We are taught by our parents and schools to accept all., But when BUSH calls you run like a little child with his blankey behind him. No one in this world needs to live in fear, be hungry or homeless. The truth to this war lies behind George Bush, his father and his constant lies. OH! CANADA OUR HOME AND NATIVE LAND obviously this means nothing. It does not matter where we live we are all the same. Everything we have in every country needs to be shared by all no matter where you live. PEACE is the answer. WE are not in a radical war!!!

  2. Sandra Chamberlain-Snider permalink
    March 24, 2009 3:57 pm

    The job of a soldier is to put themselves “in harm’s way”, at least in this country a citizen gets to choose to join, to understand that death is always a possible outcome of this profession. C.Fuller asks when soldiers will stop being cannon fodder, I dont think its fair to define them like that. You may decry the hyperbole of a word like heroism, but these soldiers are actively choosing this role. The Prime Minister, Harper or anyone, must recognize the sacrifice a Canadian soldier makes; it would be political suicide not to. I dont think the spectacle desensitizes the public to war death, quite the opposite really. Canadians have had over 40 years to forget the results of war. We need to see their pictures, see their coffins, their parents, spouses and children devasted, because those images connect us.
    Our choice, as a nation, is whether we have the political will to continue to along this IED-filled road, together. As far as Afghanistan goes, at the very least I think of the women and children of that nation that have choices our soldiers deaths bought for them.

  3. corsullivan permalink*
    March 22, 2009 1:11 pm

    Heroism, like tragedy, is a word that seems to have become awfully devalued recently. Still, I would say that extreme willingness to face the risk of death for one’s country is indeed a form of heroism. Actually dying for one’s country is the consequence of heroism plus bad luck.

    The usual talk of soldiers dying for freedom and democracy can get very silly and platitudinous. A more realistic view might be that they die – and kill, of course – to advance Canadian interests and priorities. During the American Revolution and the War of 1812 this meant defending Canadian soil, whereas in subsequent conflicts it has involved going overseas to help allies, contain potential threats, and/or keep the peace in the Pearsonian tradition. These objectives basically seem worth the sacrifice provided we choose our battles carefully.

  4. C. Fuller permalink
    March 22, 2009 11:28 am

    I like your point about death being elevated to some kind of heroism by Harper. But only some deaths: the deaths of working people in Canadian mines, forests, laboratories, hospitals — these are not heroic, not even noted.

    I’ve always said if the old men who make war want war, let them fight it, not the young men and women who they are sending to their pointless deaths. Here are the words of Buffy St Marie — they’re as true today as they were in 1965 when she wrote them. It underscores the fact that death in war is not heroism, it’s death in war. When will Canadian soldiers stop offering themselves as cannon fodder?

    Buffy St Marie

    He’s five feet two and he’s six feet four
    He fights with missiles and with spears
    He’s all of 31 and he’s only 17
    He’s been a soldier for a thousand years

    He’s a Catholic, a Hindu, an atheist, a Jain,
    a Buddhist and a Baptist and a Jew
    and he knows he shouldn’t kill
    and he knows he always will
    kill you for me my friend and me for you

    And he’s fighting for Canada,
    he’s fighting for France,
    he’s fighting for the USA,
    and he’s fighting for the Russians
    and he’s fighting for Japan,
    and he thinks we’ll put an end to war this way

    And he’s fighting for Democracy
    and fighting for the Reds
    He says it’s for the peace of all
    He’s the one who must decide
    who’s to live and who’s to die
    and he never sees the writing on the walls

    But without him how would Hitler have
    condemned him at Dachau
    Without him Caesar would have stood alone
    He’s the one who gives his body
    as a weapon to a war
    and without him all this killing can’t go on

    He’s the universal soldier and he
    really is to blame
    His orders come from far away no more
    They come from him, and you, and me
    and brothers can’t you see
    this is not the way we put an end to war.

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