Sunday, September 6, 2015

Sept. 6: Short on a sunny afternoon....

....and credit where credit was due.

In Saturday's paper, I forgot to look at the Faith Page. Big mistake. Reverend Richard Jackson has an excellent column on the distinctions between loyalty and patriotism on one hand  - and faithfullness on the other.He cites an American quotation - "my country right or wrong. But my country"  as an example of loyalty and patriotism - but certainly not of faith.

It's an excellent point. So let's go to where the rubber hits the road. In 1937, some 1500 Canadians volunteered to fight fascism in Spain. They were called the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion, and they served in what was called the International Brigade. They went to Spain because the democratic republic of Spain was being attacked by a fascist general named Franco. And Franco had lavish help, including tanks and bombers, from Hitler and Mussolini.

The Canadian and American and French and British governments were furious at the International Brigade. Canada immediately passed a law making it illegal to fight in foreign wars (a law we seem to  have since forgotten.)  It's ironic that our prime minister who passed it was William Lyon Mackenzie-King. He was named after his grandfather, William Lyon Mackenzie - the man who was a storied rebel and whose name was part of the name of the Mackenzie-Papineau battalion.

They were fighting fascism - Hitler, Mussolini, and Franco. But, as late as 1939, Canada felt no pride in that. The RCMP for   years spied on their families and, when they returned, spied on them. (Incidentally, only half would live to see Canada again.) When they did return, Canada, Britain and the U.S. put every possible obstacle in their way. They were labelled "premature anti-fascists" - and spies would follow some of them the rest of their lives.

The same thing happened to Charlie Chaplin when he made the film "The Great Dictator" in 1940, a year into the war. It was also the first Hollywood film to criticize Hitler and his treatment of Jews - and he had to finance it himself because no Hollywood film studio, including all the Jewish owned ones would touch a film critical of Hitler, After the war, Chaplin was hounded out of the U.S. precisely for  his criticism of Hitler.

The usual excuse for this treatment of those who opposed fascism 'pre-maturely' is that they were communists. Some were. I met some in my teens and twenties. They were communists. But they weren't Stalins. They weren't evil. They weren't terrorists. Many years ago, I knew a number of them, mostly Jewish. They were the most compassionate people I have even known. They were - dare I say it? - Christians in a  way damn few Christians are. (And they all abandoned the party when Kruschev revealed what Stalin was really like.)

This November 11, the first Canadians to give their lives fighting fascism will not be mentioned. They never are. And the Canadian Legion never mentions them. Why?

What they did was wrong. Unlike the soldiers of 1939, they could not be portrayed as going to war for loyalty or patriotism. They went out of faithfulness and compassion. And that's naughty.

Perhaps Reverend Jackson might be interested in giving a sermon on this on the Sunday nearest Nov. 11 -  in memory of those Canadians who were premature anti-fascists.

Incidentally, there's an even deeper meaning to this story.

Canadian, American, British and French capitalists just loved Hitler. They thought fascism established a wonderful relationship with capitalism in destroying democracy, and bringing capitalists into political power. It was also, in the hungry years of the 1930s, their defence against the spread of communism and socialism. That's why many of them gave Hitler the money that  brought him to power. That's why the U.S. government had no great interest in the war until late 1941, when it seemed that China was up for grabs. That's why, when memories of the great depression were still strong in the 1950s, Senator McCarthy of the U.S. staged his communist witch hunt.

And why did the British and French empires go to war in 1939? It had nothing to do with saving Jews, though our governments knew all about what was going on. It was because they feared that Hitler was beginning to build his own economic empire which would challenge those of Britain and France. The U.S. did not go to war in 1939 - because Hitler and Mussolinin were no threat to it.

There were, I'm afraid, a lot of fascists in the upper ranks of western business in 1939. And there still are a lot. And they are, as they were in the days of Hitler and Mussolini, fascist in their behaviour.

There's a sermon in that - a sermon about loyalty, patriotism  - and faithfulness.

There's a bizarre story out of West Point, the U.S. military academy. Students were engaged in a pillow fight, using pillow case stuffed with metal objects. Thirty were injured, many with concussions.

Isn't that behaviour a little odd?

Recently, there was a (hushed)  scandal about Canadian women in the military being sexually assaulted by soldiers.

Why weren't more questioned asked about this? There's a documentary by Gwynne Dyer that touches on this. As well as I can remember, it's called The Profession of Arms.

A soldier's job is to be ruthless, to have no respect for human life or human decency. That's not a criticism of soldiers. That's a reality that is built into their training. That's why drill sergeants shout and spit in the faces of recruits. Any humanity or compassion is a handicap in war. Violent behaviour is encouraged.  In the final analysis, we are the ones who demand that. That is what we have done to those we remember on Nov. 11. We owe them thanks. We also owe them apologies.

Thus the pillow slips filled with metal. Thus the sexual assaults.


  1. "Isn't that behaviour a little odd?"

    Coincidentally, today a friend (who is in the Reserves) was telling stories about the crazy things that went on after hours. One of which was pillow fights with the pillows stuffed with flack vests (as well as random fires, smuggling in beer, and other sorts of misbehavior).

  2. You may find this video interesting.

    1. Thank you. It's more than interesting. I'm going to recommend it tomorrow.


  4. Wow! very black. but very well done.