Editorial Board 2000-2001
What do they say about those who forget the past?
Doomed to repeat it? For Canadians, the valuable lessons learned throughout this country's short but vibrant history will probably not be offered in remedial format any time soon. Yet an entire generation seems to be perilously making a foray into the future with a knowledge of the past equal to that of last week's winning lottery numbers.
Events such as D-Day, which gave the then-world a true sense of the price of freedom, are now merely references to dates and places which younger Canadians gloss over and struggle to pinpoint in time. This is very troubling, since the only good that came out of the bad times brought on by the Second World War, could not possibly happen ever again. With our technology improving daily, another international conflict on the same as scale as WWII, would not likely result in many survivors able or willing to pass on lessons about the profound price of freedom.
Most Canadians, especially second and third generations, have lived in freedom their whole lives. Most of these lucky people often take for granted the unfettered nature of their existence. Canada's current identity crisis, mired in a constant comparison with United States culture and achievement, can take steps to sort itself out by somehow putting war veterans on the same cultural level as hockey icons like the late Maurice Richard.
Compare, for instance, the attention given to Richard's funeral services this week, with the token consideration given to the Unknown Soldier, buried last week. Did droves of people show up to mourn a nameless young man who died fighting for freedom some sixty years ago. Simply, no. While there was a large public attendance at the tomb of the unknown soldier, it was Richard who brought nearly an entire province to the streets of Montreal. The sheer numbers of those paying homage to Richard, as opposed to our anonymous war hero, stand as a testimony to the under-appreciated nature of the Canadian war effort.
Not to downplay Richard's contribution to the Canadian historical landscape, but an effort to raise consciousness of the D-Day saga and surrounding events must be made if Canada is to secure some sense of where its freedom was obtained. We must keep in mind that hockey did not defeat Hitler and the Canadiens, even during Richard's tenure with them, did not fight for the freedom of every Canadian.
Bearing in mind the last WWII veteran will likely die within this generation's lifetime, the importance of remembering those who died in the war must be raised in priority. We can not let their achievements die with them, or continue to let freedom exist with just a token attitude.