The Price of Freedom

Tomorrow is Remembrance Day in Canada (and I believe across the Commonwealth).

As a society we have paid for the freedoms we currently enjoy with blood, tears and too many sacrifices to count.  Winston Churchill’s words “Never have so many owed so much to so few.” is still valid, more than half a century later.

Tomorrow is a normal work day for many.  Fortunately as I am a semi-civil servant, I have the day off.   Many people for whom this is a stat holiday will take the time to sleep in, go shopping, chores, play World of Warcraft etc. etc.   I will be doing some of those things yes, but tomorrow morning at 11am I will be standing with a few hundred other souls at the Cenotaph paying homage to those that who paid the ultimate sacrifice, and in being there, thanking those that ventured into the breech in various wars and conflicts to uphold Canadian ideals.

If you’ve been following the news you will see that there are protesters in almost every large city in the civilized world (I’m talking about the “Occupy {insert placename}” movement).   I don’t pretend to understand what a lot of these people are protesting.  I read one article that recounted a meeting of protest organizers and, according to the reporter, the only thing that was decided was that they would have no leader, and their platform would be decided by a committee sometime in the future.

I will point out that I’ve read that almost every “Occupy” protest group that is camped out near a Cenotaph have promised to not interfere with Remembrance Day Ceremonies.   That’s really the least they could do, as the reason for the ceremonies is why they’re not all festering in some Lubyanka like prison somewhere.

Protests of a more odious nature were planned in Britain by a group calling for “Hell for Heroes” or something like that.   A group of Muslims who felt it their right to burn poppies and start shouting during the 2 minutes of silence.   The apparently feel that honouring the war dead is honouring soldiers who oppressed their people.   Of course it occurs to me that their use of the word “Heroes” is somewhat ironic…that in their protest they are in fact honouring those they want to deride.   (I’ve always said, “People are stupid”).

I am not addressing that argument.   The group was outlawed by the British Parliament yesterday.   Was it a wise move?  Absolutely, if you want to consider the health and safety of the protesters.    I cannot say that I would react calmly if someone did that here.

But here’s the thing.  I have to ask myself if banning the group for their plans to protest (which the police said were perfectly legal) based on the nature of their beliefs is right?  I ask this fully aware of the dichotomy of my stated view above that I would likely not react well to it.

Soldiers died to protect our freedoms.   That includes the freedom to believe anything you want, and give voice to those beliefs (anti-hate laws notwithstanding).   I believe it was Voltaire who said, “Although I disagree with what you say, I will defend, to the death, your right to say it.”

Is there a line when it comes to freedom of speech?  Unfortunately I don’t think there is.  To start arbitrarily telling people who hold certain beliefs that they cannot believe that…or even that they had best keep their beliefs to themselves is a gross violation of the ideals for which blood was shed.

Which means, sadly, that in many cases we have to live with the ungrateful little dipwads waving their signs and spouting what ever their message happens to be.

I think the best action any veteran could take in the face of such a protest is to walk up, extend your hand in peace and say, “Your welcome.”

To everyone who has fought for us, to everyone who has died for us, to those that have lost loved one, to those that serve and have served their nation in the defence of freedom, I want to say Thank You.



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