Today is Monday, September 25, 2017

Elmlane

Fred's Views


What 'Glory' Days?

I titled last month's essay "Autumn Glory", but at least in my part of the world, autumn has been anything but glorious. The warm, sunny days that usually appear from mid-September to at least mid-October were seldom around this year. We've had a lot of rain and unseasonably cool days. So much for global warming, eh? Well, if only.

But there are other aspects of "Glory" to consider this month. On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918, the so-called "First World War", or the "War to End All Wars" or just "The Great War" came to an end. Thousands of Canadian soldiers did not come home from that war. Their bodies lie in cemetaries across Europe such as at Flanders Fields.

We know now, of course, that it was really a fool's war: only foolish egotists could have drawn most of the "modern" world into such a useless endeavor. It was a totally unnecessary war. It was the bloodiest war man had known to that time. It should have taught us a lesson. But it did not.

Should Canada and Canadians have become involved in such a foolish war? It would have been prudent not to, but that's looking back with 20-20 vision. Although we were a sovereign nation in most respects, we were also still a member of the British Empire and by extension, part of Great Britain, at least to some views. No one knew, as the war began, just how foolish and bloody it would become. Most felt the war would be over in a few months. Almost everyone was wrong.

This month we honor the men and women who served Canada in the "Great War" as well as all other wars since then. Some of us no doubt believed it was wrong to participant in any of those wars. Some of us felt it was unpatriotic to oppose participation in any of those wars. Many felt it their duty to participate, even if it meant giving up their lives for the "cause".

The fact is, people who live in a democratic society such as Canada not only have the right, but the responsibility to speak their mind. If you believe something is wrong, speak out. To oppose participation in any war is our right as Canadians. To condemn those who oppose the war as unpatriotic is wrong. It is stupid beyond belief because it negates the very thing our armies exist to protect - our freedom.

But as usual, things are not quite that simple. There is a difference between opposing participation in a war and not supporting our troops. Our troops are there doing their duty as best they know how. They deserve our support, they need our support and they should have the unquestioned support of everyone. Fight to end the war if that is your belief, but do not confuse a decision made by foolish politicians with the dedication our troops have shown wherever they have been deployed.

And one other thing: Sometimes when a decision has been made, even if it was the wrong decision, we have no choice but to follow through. The Vietnam war was a fiasco from the beginning. The U.S. was simply trying to keep one dictatorship in power instead of a different one. No good could come to the people of Vietnam from such actions. But the problems in Iraq and Afghanistan are somewhat different. The U.S. is attempting to set up a democratic government in both countries. They are opposed by some who do not want democracy. If the U.S. and its allies withdraw now, these countries will soon be taken over by other dictators perhaps worse than the ones who were removed. Maybe establishing democracy in these countries is a pipedream. And if so, we may have to reevaluate our position. But for now, we must stay. We must see the effort through.

Of course it would be so nice if this were not a U.S. led fight but a U.N. led fight. Unfortunately, the United Nations was largely set up to fail at peace-keeping. And fail it usually has. That's not to say it hasn't done a great deal of good around the world because, of course, it has. "Trick or Treat for UNICEF" is just one example. But the U.N. has been unable to live up to its potential and individual nations, such as the U.S. (and its allies) have been forced to fill the void.

I sometimes think that what we need is a new organization (Oh no, not another one!). An organization in which only democratic nations may belong. But an organization that requires each and every member to give up part of its sovereignty for the good of the whole. Each nation should contribute according to its resources in terms of money, aid and armed forces with the understanding that if any member's democratic freedoms are jeopardised or removed, the full force of this new organization will be brought to bear on those who would destroy democracy within or without the country. By providing positive leadership and a proven track record, the organization can aid other countries in their fight for democracy and civil rights. But this organization has to have some teeth and that requires that nations such as the U.S. be prepared to submit to the will of the new organization - and that requires that the interests of the U.S. as well as all other democratic countries are respected in turn. Probably an impossibility, but maybe some year. Hopefully without a third world war. (Yes, that's a veiled reference to Star Trek and the Federation.)

-Fred

What's New

Unfortunately, not much is new this month. I am studying Cascading Style Sheets. It's a better way to design the look of web sites. If you see this essay in two columns, you're viewing our older page that uses "Tables" for the design. If this essay is in one column, the page was designed with CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). I've used CSS for quite some time, but never to design or layout the site, only to change the design of certain textual features - such as the smaller size used for the navigation links and the "address" bar at the bottom.

CSS designed pages will be phased in slowly. Having just completed a redesign of the site this summer, I'm not ready to do a complete redesign of the redesign just yet. But as new features are added or pages are edited, CSS will creep in. It can be daunting to learn new technologies, but interesting and exciting too. Stay around for the ride.


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