Sunday, November 10, 2013

Lazy Sunday # 298: Canada’s One Man Army

Canada is notorious for ignoring its heroes. There’s something about the national psyche that strives for anonymity. We don’t want to be noticed, singled out or made a fuss over. And we go out of our way not to tell the stories of those among us who would be celebrated in other cultures.

Tomorrow is Remembrance Day. And if any Canadian broadcaster programs a movie about our war veterans it’ll probably be that inexcusable piece of shit “Passchendaele”, which has little to do with history and even less relationship to the real Canadians who fought in the First World War.

But our participation in WWII, when we took a larger and more important role is even less a subject of Canadian films and TV. The fact that the dwindling number of warriors from that generation have never seen their stories told onscreen is nothing short of a national disgrace.

It leaves the impression that we might have been there and maybe did our part and all. But it wasn’t like we did anything anybody else couldn’t or wouldn’t have done.

And while we smugly snigger at Hollywood’s war heroes, the cornball patriotism of John Wayne, the undefeatable heroes portrayed by an endless stream of stars; the truth is that there was one among us who would make even Chuck Norris hang his head and whisper, “I’m not worthy”.

You’ve probably never heard of Leo Major. And once you have I guarantee you will feel two emotions:

1) Disbelief that this man’s name never came up in any history class you ever took.

2) Disdain for anyone who claims to have programmed film or television in this country and did not fight to make his story known.

What follows is a simple list of Leo Major’s character traits and accomplishments on the field of battle. As you pin on your poppy tomorrow morning and partake in the eleven o’clock moment of silence, let those acts of remembrance note that there were hundreds, perhaps thousands, just like him.

Men and women whose blood may flow in your own veins, who once walked among you as teachers, storekeepers or that quiet nondescript guy who caught the same bus home from work that you did.

They might even be one of those frail and bent 80 year olds nearby struggling to make it through one more Remembrance Day ceremony.

But their lives and their stories have been denied to you -– and you have been made lesser people because of that not knowing.

Maybe the story of one man you’ve never heard of can spark the change we need in finally beginning to tell our own stories to ourselves and realizing that we are worth telling stories about.

Learn. And Remember –- and Enjoy Your Sunday.


win said...

Thank you for this reminder Jim.
You always make us think.
Sadly, the Canadian trait of humility and self-deprecation is only trumped by the cowardice and faux patriotism of the media/political elite.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget the somewhat lame "Dieppe," which was shown on the CBC. It was an attempt to show a Canadian WWII story.

John McFetridge said...

Good interview on CBC radio this morning with Ted Barris, author of, "The Great Escape: A Canadian Story:"