Friday, 16 November 2012

Salute to a brave and modest nation!

Salute to a brave and modest nation - Kevin Myers , 'The Sunday Telegraph'

Until the deaths of Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan , probably
almost no one outside their home country had been aware that Canadian troops
are deployed in the region.

And as always, Canada will bury its dead, just as the rest of the world, as
always will forget its sacrifice, just as it always forgets nearly everything Canada ever does..
It seems that Canada's historic mission is to come to the selfless aid both
of its friends and of complete strangers, and then, once the crisis is over,
to be well and truly ignored.

Canada is the perpetual wallflower that stands on the edge of the hall,
waiting for someone to come and ask her for a dance. A fire breaks out, she
risks life and limb to rescue her fellow dance-goers, and suffers serious injuries. 
But when the hall is repaired and the dancing resumes, there is Canada, the wallflower
still, while those she once helped glamorously cavort across the floor, blithely
neglecting her yet again.

That is the price Canada pays for sharing the North American continent with
the United States , and for being a selfless friend of Britain in two global

For much of the 20th century, Canada was torn in two different directions:
It seemed to be a part of the old world, yet had an address in the new one,
and that divided identity ensured that it never fully got the gratitude it deserved.

Yet its purely voluntary contribution to the cause of freedom in two world
wars was perhaps the greatest of any democracy. Almost 10% of Canada's
entire population of seven million people served in the armed forces during the First World
War, and nearly 60,000 died. The great Allied victories of 1918 were spearheaded by
Canadian troops, perhaps the most capable soldiers in the entire British
order of battle.

Canada was repaid for its enormous sacrifice by downright neglect, its
unique contribution to victory being absorbed into the popular memory as
somehow or other the work of the 'British.'

The Second World War provided a re-run. The Canadian navy began the war with
a half dozen vessels, and ended up policing nearly half of the Atlantic
against U-boat attack. More than 120 Canadian warships participated in the Normandy
landings, during which 15,000 Canadian soldiers went ashore on D-Day alone.

Canada finished the war with the third-largest navy and the fourth largest
air force in the world. The world thanked Canada with the same sublime
indifference as it had the previous time.

Canadian participation in the war was acknowledged in film only if it was
necessary to give an American actor a part in a campaign in which the United
States had clearly not participated - a touching scrupulousness which, of course,
Hollywood has since abandoned, as it has any notion of a separate Canadian

So it is a general rule that actors and filmmakers arriving in Hollywood
keep their nationality - unless, that is, they are Canadian. Thus Mary
Pickford, Walter Huston,Donald Sutherland, Michael J. Fox, William Shatner, Norman Jewison, David
Cronenberg, Alex Trebek, Art Linkletter, Mike Weir and Dan Aykroyd have in
the popular perception become American, and Christopher Plummer, British.

It is as if, in the very act of becoming famous, a Canadian ceases to be
Canadian, unless she is Margaret Atwood, who is as unshakably Canadian as a
moose, or Celine Dion, for whom Canada has proved quite unable to find any takers.

Moreover, Canada is every bit as querulously alert to the achievements of
its sons and daughters as the rest of the world is completely unaware of
them. The Canadians proudly say of themselves - and are unheard by anyone else - that
1% of the world's population has provided 10% of the world's peacekeeping

Canadian soldiers in the past half century have been the greatest
peacekeepers on Earth - in 39 missions on UN mandates, and six on non-UN
peacekeeping duties, from Vietnam to East Timor, from Sinai to Bosnia.

Yet the only foreign engagement that has entered the popular non-Canadian
imagination was the sorry affair in Somalia , in which out-of-control
paratroopers murdered two Somali infiltrators. Their regiment was then disbanded in
disgrace - a uniquely Canadian act of self-abasement for which, naturally,
the Canadians received no international credit.

So who today in the United States knows about the stoic and selfless
friendship its northern neighbour has given it in Afghanistan ?

Rather like Cyrano de Bergerac , Canada repeatedly does honourable things
for honourable motives, but instead of being thanked for it, it remains
something of a figure of fun. It is the Canadian way, for which Canadians should be proud,
yet such honour comes at a high cost. This past year more grieving Canadian
families knew that cost all too tragically well.

Lest we forget.


  1. Always nice to get a bit of recognition, isn't it?

    1. I knew this but it is not often mention and it is nice to read.