November 2021: Horror & Hope
I have had plenty on my mind this month, so my procrastination to write this month’s blog is a bit unexpected. Nevertheless, here we are at the end of the month and I am wondering where to start. November is a tricky month for some. Candy hangovers from Halloween, Remembrance Day solemnity, bombardment of Black Friday sales far in advance of the actual day, American Thanksgiving, and the Advent of Christmas (which for some starts earlier in the month than for others). In amidst all of that, I attended an online, indigenous-focused, professional continuing education course. That’s a great deal of adjectives for one simple noun! Somewhat apt as the content was equally weighted.
However, as much as I want to share some of what I learned in that course, I am going back in time to Remembrance Day. A solemn occasion to honour the men and women who have defended this country from megalomaniacs and warmongers on the world’s stage—and a reminder to not take our country’s privileges for granted. While I fully support this country’s efforts to honour veterans, past and present, sometimes Remembrance Day can feel like an empty gesture—especially for those veterans struggling with returning to civilian life—whether it be financially, socially, mentally/emotionally, or physically.
And then I saw the controversial meme posted above with a comment about the original intention of Armistice Day (the forerunner to our Remembrance Day) was to promote peace and prevent more war. When I did an internet search, very little is said about the peace promoting origins; but I did find one comment stating: “…traditional services also witnessed occasional calls to remember the horror of war and to embrace peace.” https://www.warmuseum.ca/firstworldwar/history/after-the-war/remembrance/remembrance-day/
“Teach your children there is no glory or heroes in war. That glory comes from actions that prevent war; and the heroes are the ones who implement those actions.”
It reminds me of the original purpose of Mother’s Day which was not to honour mothers per se, but a plea for husbands and sons to no longer be killed in war, and was called “Mother’s Day for Peace” back in 1907 in the States. Apparently there was an American Mother’s Day Proclamation made in 1870 “which called upon mothers of all nationalities to band together to promote the “amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mother%27s_Day
In my opinion, it is not a matter of either-or, but both-and. We need to care for and respect those who have served our country (even for questionable causes). But in the memory of the horrors of war, may we be inspired to work towards peace—that amicable settlement of international questions—to prevent further losses—of life, or limb, or sense of life, or sanity. How do we honour the soldier while we protest the war?
There are no easy answers, if any at all. Teaching our children to understand compromise verses sacrifice seems insurmountable. And it grieves me to see the good intentions of strong, courageous women have been thwarted, yet again. This actually ties in to something I learned in that course I mentioned. Indigenous nations were predominantly matriarchal, with a few exceptions, of course. Canadian officials were swift to disarm the women, the leaders, by taking away their rights and freedoms—imposing a culture of dependency. What was hard-won for white women in the first decades of the twentieth century (1916-right to vote in prairie provinces, 1929-status as persons) took several more decades for our indigenous sisters.
“The Indian Act has affected Indigenous cultures, systems of governance, societies and ways of life since its enactment in 1867. Gender discrimination in the Act further disadvantaged First Nations women, in particular. Until 1985, women with Indian status who married someone without status lost their status rights. Men, on the other hand, did not lose Indian status in the same way. Even after Bill C-31 reinstated the status rights of many women in 1985, the Act still discriminated against women by privileging male lines of descent. Amendments in 2011 and 2017 sought to fix these issues. In 2019, the federal government brought into force the remaining part of Bill S-3, which is meant to address lingering sex-based inequities in the Indian Act.”https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/women-and-the-indian-act
Two things have become evident to me in this revealing information. One is that the way of healing for indigenous cultures and nations will be through the women—reinstating their status on the national level as well as within their unique cultures, reversing that imposed culture of dependency. The other is that this won’t be possible without the help from their white sisters. Ultimately, it will take efforts from all genders to make this happen. However, I believe the initial movement will be from women rising up to support each other.
I have no idea how this will happen. I am not a dreamer or a visionary or even a leader. I can only use what little influence I have to, at the very least, get people—women especially—thinking and talking. In an ideal world, the conversations will expand to women of all ethnic backgrounds sharing stories and experiences. Connecting on those very basic matters of being human. Transitioning to collaborative problem solving. Something than women have wanted since time immemorial. We are tired of shouldering the emotional weight of the animosity that leads to violence and the horrors of war. We are also tired of our hands being tied—mostly figuratively, but sometimes literally—to effect change.
So if Remembrance Day and Mother’s Day seem to have little in common, maybe I will have changed your mind by these thoughts I’ve shared. It is my hope that the more we open our minds and our hearts, our commonalities will outweigh our differences. When we can establish common ground, we improve our chances to negotiate and compromise becomes appealing. To compromise does not mean one party wins and one loses. Comprise means each party gives a little to get a little.
And in an awkward tie-in to the first Sunday of Advent represented by Hope, it is my hope that we can we can overcome the shadow side of our human nature (for individual supremacy), so that we can live up to our human potential for collaboration, connection, and community. In this holiday season, may you find opportunities for thought and talk that contributes to peace and hope for all of humanity, not just your own little world.