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Remembrance Day

Today is Remembrance Day in Canada and in the Western world in one form or another. It is a day that  marks the Armistice, the end of World War I.  It was a particularly special day for those of us fortunate enough to live in a nation of the British Commonwealth, for it marked the 100th anniversary of Great Brittan’s entry into the war. It is a day to remember, a day of quietude and thankfulness, not a day for retail sales, commercialism or big shows.

Perhaps those who know me as a life long pacifist will find a blog post about memorializing war unusual, even out of character; an expat American who is profoundly Canadian to his core. The True North Strong and Free has been my home since 1968, more than twice as long as I lived in the US. I, like many others, emigrated from the United States to other places because of  opposition to a profoundly unjustified conflict and government’s policies based in hegemony not humanity.

As I sat in my car today listening to the ceremonies from the cenotaph in Ottawa, I was profoundly moved, and as always cast into an abyss of thought and introspection. My first thoughts always go to my American brothers and sisters that fought and died in the Viet Nam conflict, and equally to those who came back physically and mentally damaged. You see, I am a pacifist, but I am not anti-military, just anti-militerist.

Viet Nam, and the conflicts in Iraq and to some extent Afghanistan, were political, economic and vengeful wars. The two World Wars were a different ilk of war. They were much more about preventing certain countries from dominating other countries. World War II and the battle for freedom in opposition to the horrors of Hitler’s Germany strikes particularly close to home, since my father and uncles all fought in one or another of the areas of conflict, in the Army, Navy or Marines.

The Cold War era, and all that flowed from the geopolitical tensions it brought to bear on governments and people, is the war of my youth. The philosophy of mutual assured destruction, the arms race, the Bay of Pigs, spies and spying and the Cuban Missile crisis were ever present from the post WW II era until the fall of the USSR. Although I was always a pacifist and a “peacenik,” it is easy to appreciate the dynamics of the times.

Canada became my chosen refuge in 1968 because its government and military were committed to peacekeeping and peace building. It was also a country that achieved its independence from Brittan by earning it, and by negotiating for it gradually, without the need for revolution or civil war.  I believe I was intrinsically Canadian from birth and just had to wait for the right time in life to discover my true homeland.

This year, two men in Canadian uniforms were taken in two acts of violence by individuals provoked by a twisted sense for right and wrong. These two events happened in the same week less than month ago. One of the men was run down by a mad man behind the wheel of a car, and the other was shot in the back as he was standing as an unarmed honour guard at the same monument that was the focus of today’s ceremonies. The same individual who committed the horrific and cowardly act of assassinating a young unarmed reservist, then went into our parliament buildings with the intent to commit further mayhem and destruction. Fortunately he was prevented from doing so. The events of that fateful week evoked a deep emotional response to this year’s Remembrance Day events in all Canadians.

My thoughts then wondered to my father, and his role as a medic in the 308th Tank Destroyer Battalion. This year those thoughts and feelings were substantially enhanced by this summer’s experiences. Travel to Western Europe brought me into close contact with the consequences of war. Visits to the battlefields of Normandy, Ypres, the Ardennes and Waterloo, and the museums, monuments and cemeteries related to those battlegrounds were intensely moving. In the Ardennes, the memorial to the American forces involved in the Battle of the Bulge, was particularly meaningful, since my father was involved in that theater of battle.

On the occasion of this visit to the Ardennes, we were stayed in Luxembourg where my father sustained a wound in the line of duty. Fortunately for me it was a minor wound to the earlobe, but a bit further to the left and I might not have been, and a few inches to the right he wouldn’t have received a Purple Heart. What really got to me was seeing the streets of Luxembourg today and thinking back to the old black and white photographs of that war torn city when he was there. I was able to imagine myself in the same local were he went into harms way to help wounded men and were he received his own wound.

I am a pacifist and a “peacenik” but I have only pride and admiration for those Canadians, and indeed those Americans, who voluntarily chose a military lifestyle. There commitment to duty in the defence of freedom and democracy (as long as that is their credo) is to be admired, respected and supported. They are the reason I am free to be the unrepentant pacifist and “peacenik”. The military carries on the act of warring, but it is the government that must be judged based on the battles they choose to fight, and the reasons the choose to send men and women into harms war.

Yes, this has been a very moving Remembrance Day, even for a pacifist like myself. I wish for an era of peace where war is just a matter for the history books. I will speak of peace, and push for peace and argue for peace, until a world is at peace making such actions unnecessary.

As. always, you faithful blogger,

L Alan Weiss (Larry) – author of Through a Lens of Emptiness

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More on Hegemony

In my last post I gave a flavour of why hegemony is excluded from under my dome of heaven. In this post I will be more specific as to why I exclude hegemony from beneath my dome of heaven. Just before I get into some specifics, I would like to remind my readers that the theme of this blog relates to the preservation of memories. We preserve memories by taking photographs or recording thoughts and events in a journal. This post, and posts to follow, are something like a retrospective journal. Everyone has ideas and philosophies that they hold to closely, and ideas and philosophies that they reject. One way to firm up your memories is to analyze your rational for selecting or rejecting particular ideas and philosophies. In the process, events and experiences that led to your decision need to be reviewed. The events and experiences recalled will relate to others, generating a web of memory. This post is the first of several that informs the reader about the specifics behind my thinking.

Hegemony is one of the “deadly sins” of society. A societal deadly sin is different from the personal deadly sins of “Christen ethics” fame, in that we have choice regarding the so-called Seven Deadly Sins, but the deadly societal sin of hegemony reflects the evolution of human behaviour. Anything that becomes engrained in human behavior and part of the fiber of society, requires us to be particularly vigulent.

My first brush with hegemonic influence came with a question. Why was it necessary to pledge allegiance to the flag each morning with an included phrase that invoked a role for God in the process ( ….one nation, under God….). This is a ritual enacted in every public school in the United States since the 50’s. What exactly did God have to do with it? Whose God were they talking about? Why were we required to invoke God in a country that is based on the separation of church and state? Subsequently, I discovered that the “God element” was not part of the pledge until 1954 when the US Congress amended the pledge on the suggestion of President Eisenhower. The anti-communist fervor in the US seemed to require some way to differentiate the democracy of the USA from the godless Soviets. This legislation was challenged in the courts on the basis that it constituted a prayer, but the court decided that the simple phrase did not constitute a prayer, so it was allowed to stand. After 60 years, the “God phrase” has been uttered countless times each day. The dominant culture of the past, continues to impose its version of reality on the majority,  which has an increasingly diverse with an increasing non-Christian component.

The phrase “God Bless America” is uttered by every president and presidential candidate as a default terminating statement in every speech.  If there is a God, why should he/she/it wish to bless America in particular. What about the rest of the countries in the world? If church and state are truly separate, then why would God even want to bless a state whose founding fathers rejected Gods involvement. The USA was supposed to be a place of equality and religious freedom. Did God bless the America that took almost a century to legislate equality of opportunity for the American black population? Did God bless US incursions and wars in Viet Nam, Iraq, and Afghanistan? Did God bless the US support for various political strong men and political movements that were inherently undemocratic? Does God bless the NRA, big oil, big pharma, the military industrial complex, insurance companies, wall street, and all the other groups that spend so much money to buy influence in Washington. If there is a God, I don’t think that lobbying for influence in the context of self-interest would be high on the list of things to bless. Lobbying reflects the interests of the dominant elements in US society that need to control the flow of things in order to retain their domination and control over the aspects of society from which they derive their wealth.

The hegemonic structures of every empire known through recorded history, served to solidify the hold each of these empires had over the lands and people they dominated.  Once the leaders of a society lose sight of the need to act in the best interests of all members of society, hegemonic practices become a tyranny, not a triumph.

Hegemony has generated more evil than good. Hegemony flies in the face of humanism and egalitarianism. Hegemony is excluded from beneath my dome of heaven because it creates stress when there should be peace. In its most benign state, hegemony is necessary, but we need to safeguard society from its inherent evils.

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