Monday, April 24, 2006

How high to fly the flag?

Babble on.

So our government has decided to revert to the tradition of lowering the Canadian flag to half-mast only once each year on November 11th in remembrance of our veterans. Reading the letters of outrage over at the CBC makes me wonder where everyone was prior to the Martin government's decision to break from the original tradition in the first place.

You see, we've had plenty of soldiers killed in overseas missions over the years. Is the life of Cpl Daniel Gunther any less valuable than that of Cpl Paul Davis?

Frequent readers (a whole curling team worth of you these days) will testify that I'm all for recognizing the sacrifices made by our men and women in uniform, especially those who make the ultimate sacrifice. But in this case, while I can see the argument for continuing with the relatively new policy of lowering the flag for each individual death, I'm in agreement with the current government's decision to reverse the policy.

Was the flag lowered on June 6th, 1944, when 340 Canadians lost their lives in the invasion of Normandy? Why not, do you think? For my part, I believe it was because Canadians at that time understood that focusing on the sacrifice instead of the just and noble mission that required it was inappropriate. I think they understood that the time for public remembrance would come, but that that time was not now as the battle raged.

Is our mission in Afghanistan any less noble, any less just?

We should remember the fallen, yes. We should honour them and cherish their memory. We can do that best by focusing on the reason for their sacrifice rather than just the fact of it, by telling their stories, by supporting their efforts and respecting their needs, and by lowering a flag on Remembrance Day.

Babble off.


At 3:33 p.m., Blogger wonderdog said...

I concur.

There is, in my view, a time to lower your flag in remembrance, and a time to fly it high so that it can serve its traditional function as a rallying point.

If we were to lower the flag every time a soldier was killed, it would have spent all of 1939-45 at half-mast.

At 3:59 p.m., Blogger Babbling Brooks said...

Good point, Dog. You don't really rally to a flag at half-staff, do you?

At 4:01 p.m., Blogger Old Jute said...

Couldn't agree with you more. As a pedantic aside, I understand that half-mast refers to flags on a ship, half-staff more appropriately refers to flags on a flagpole (flagstaff.)

At 5:04 p.m., Blogger The Tiger said...

Much as I hate to defer to the CBC, "half-mast" is Canadian usage, "half-staff" is American.

At 8:23 p.m., Blogger Paul said...

When the enemy claims one of our own, we must strengthen our resolve to win. The community of that soldier (both regimentally and their home civic community) is right to mourn their loss, but to mark each loss as a national period of mourning strengthens the will of the enemy to kill yet more Canadians.

The flap does highlight another Canadian weakness: while we commemorate wars past on November 11, we don't have a day to properly honour those serving currently (and to remember those recently killed in the service of their country). In the States, that day is the last Monday in May, Memorial Day.

Is it too late to start a movement to use Victoria Day to honour our men and women in uniform?

At 9:59 a.m., Blogger wonderdog said...

We don't need another day to honour the military. The day when we honour all casualties is November 11th.

There is no need for a special holiday to honour those currently serving. Nobody proposes a holiday to honour people who work as police officers, firefighters, or anonymous functionaries toiling deep in the bowels of the Ministry of Irrelevant Activities, although all are just as important to the functioning of the state as CF members. To dedicate a holiday to honour the military and its members accords the military a special place in our society that it deserves no more than any other institution.

At 2:15 a.m., Blogger Paul said...

"The day when we honour all casualties is November 11th."

Well, actually, no. This is not correct. On November 11th, we commemorate the end of the Second World War. We don't actually pay homage to those currently serving as thank those who gave themselves to end that conflict.

In all the Remembrance Day ceremonies I have witnessed, I have never seen any praise and thanks given to those currently serving, except in memory of those lost in past conflicts.

And contrary to what the wingbat (and I use the term with all due respect) suggested, it would be appropriate to use Victoria Day to honour and thank all those men and women in uniform, including police, firefighters, and those in the military.

(Those who can read would note that Wonderdog claims on one hand that Remembrance Day is enough honour, then decries even that much thanks to those who serve ("to dedicate a holiday ... it deserves no more than any other ...".) That should tell any reader all they need to know about how little he (or she) values those who serve).)

At 3:07 a.m., Blogger wonderdog said...

You know, Paul, you'd be at less risk of making a fool of yourself if you avoided jumping to silly conclusions about my attitudes towards those who have served in the military.

You'd also be at less risk of making a fool of yourself if you were factually correct about the purpose and origins of Remembrance Day.

Too late.

At 3:16 p.m., Blogger McGuire said...

A little perspective is needed. Is it worse to have a gov't that provides proper funding, equipment, manpower & respect for our military but doesn't lower the flag or is it worse to have a gov't that lowers the flag but nickels & dimes the military when it comes to resources & runs election ads basically stating that our soldiers are of the same moral fibre as the Nazi gestapo?? I know where I stand

At 4:39 p.m., Blogger Babbling Brooks said...

The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month was originally designated a time of remembrance for those killed in WWI, not WWII as you suggest, Paul.

As far as your slur on Wonderdog, I would suggest for the sake of your own reputation you retract it and apologize since the man is a veteran.

At 6:02 p.m., Blogger Alan said...

"I would suggest for the sake of your own reputation you retract it and apologize since the man is a veteran."

The wonderdog clearly wouldn't demand an apology on the basis of his status as a veteran.

"To dedicate a holiday to honour the military and its members accords the military a special place in our society that it deserves no more than any other institution."


At 11:56 p.m., Blogger Serenity Now! said...

National Law Enforcement Day:

Let's not forget the Canadian Tomb of the Unknown Soldier:

"The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was created to honour the more than 116,000 Canadians who sacrificed their lives in the cause of peace and freedom. Furthermore, the Unknown Soldier represents all Canadians, whether they be navy, army, air force or merchant marine, who died or may die for their country in all conflicts - past, present, and future."

It is up to us, individually, as Canadians, to find our own ways to honour those serving.

Personally, I am less concerned about lowering the flag and more concerned that our soldiers know that me and my family are behind them. We do this with cards, letters, emails of support.

At 10:19 a.m., Blogger Babbling Brooks said...

The wonderdog clearly wouldn't demand an apology on the basis of his status as a veteran.

Right, OC. That's why I did.

Making assumptions about someone's support for the military based upon a limited understanding of their politics doesn't hurt anyone but the one making the assumption - which is why I prefaced my recommendation that Paul retract his remarks the way I did.


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