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Archive for November 2007

Remembering veterans has more significance in Canada

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Originally published on on Tue, 11/13/2007 – 11:35am

I happened to spend Veterans Day in Canada this year. Well, they don’t call it Veterans Day; they call it Remembrance Day. It’s the same concept, but it seemed to me that Canada celebrates the day in a whole different manner.

And I wasn’t even that far into Canada, a mile or two (three kilometers), over in Windsor, Ontario, across the Detroit River from Detroit, Michigan. But it was a completely different world when it came to remembering the sacrifices made by veterans in wartime.

Everywhere I looked, people were wearing poppies on their coats to honor the veterans. The anchors on Hockey Night in Canada wore poppies. The news anchors on CTV wore poppies.

There was extensive coverage on television, radio, and in the newspapers devoted to Remembrance Day. There was even live coverage of Remembrance Day services on CBC television. I’ve never seen anything like that in the United States. The CFL football playoffs were delayed for an hour in honor of the day. Could you imagine an NFL kickoff being delayed 5 minutes for Veterans Day?

I saw a good-sized procession of veterans and their loved ones marching down the streets of downtown Windsor. People stopped to observe. It was really cool to see.

CBC Radio ran a program devoted to how Canadians observe Remembrance Day. They spoke of the great sacrifices from the French and Indian war all the way down to the troops currently serving in Afghanistan. Canadians, who didn’t fight in Iraq nor in Vietnam (despite what Ann Coulter says), have a different perspective on war than Americans.

You would think that a country that has fought in more wars more often than Canada would do more to remember the veterans. And yet Canada gets the idea better than we do and they have fewer wars and troops to remember.

Canada hasn’t been attacked since the War of 1812. The same isn’t true of the United States, whether you count 1941 or 2001.

The poppies were a small sign, but the fact that you could see them everywhere was a nice way of remembering and honoring the sacrifice of those who fought and died for freedom.

The biggest gesture that I can recall seeing in the United States was the long ago episode of WKRP in Cincinnati where Buddy the war veteran bemoans the loss of significance of Veterans Day. He threatens to take himself and Les Nessman down in the plane flying over the city unless there is some sign of caring for Veterans Day. Getting together a parade wasn’t practical, so they settle for getting people to honk their horns at a specific time. The episode came out in 1980, five years after the Vietnam War.

Even though we have a better sense in 2007 of the sacrifices of those who serve than we did in 1980, I still wonder if we could even get people to honk their horns at a specific time. Or wear flowers on our lapels. Or something large and significant.

Buddy thought we had troubles back then. Imagine if Buddy were real and looking at 2007.

All the poppies in the world can’t create better armor or better strategy in Iraq or even better health care at Walter Reed back home. But Veterans Day should mean more than it currently does in the United States. If nothing else, we should being working as hard as Canada does in honoring our veterans.


Written by democracysoup

November 13, 2007 at 11:35 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Election Day should be your own personal holiday

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Originally published on on Fri, 11/02/2007 – 1:17pm

Hey did you know Tuesday is a holiday? What, it’s not?

Sadly, Election Day is not a holiday. But hey, it’s the United States. We hardly get any holidays. And most of the holidays that are holidays, the vast majority of us still have to go to work.

Holidays are special because they are rare, and they are days that are important to our lives. And Election Day should be one of those days. After all, what is more important than participating in our democracy?

So will Tuesday, November 6, be a holiday for you? In most areas, this Election Day won’t be that significant. Then again, having spent a few days in Cincinnati, I saw quite a few election ads, and if I didn’t know there was a governor’s race across the Ohio River in Kentucky, I certainly found out by watching TV.

But we need to start treating every first Tuesday (that is followed by the first Monday) in November as a holiday. We need to start the trend to make Election Day important enough to spare a day at work.

Some employers have floating holidays, and you should use Election Day for that purpose. Others get so few days off, it really is a sacrifice to take the day off, but democracy is important enough to spare one vacation day.

You can even switch a holiday. Maybe come in the day after Thanksgiving. So you’ll miss a few football games and a few sales. You’ll probably be sick of your relatives by then. You could also come in the weekend before the election or the weekend after and make up the work.

Some employees take off Good Friday or Rosh Hashanah for religious purposes. Not that politics is a religion, but democracy can be your spiritual guide, and so you can cite Election Day as a “religious” holiday.

Then there’s calling in sick. Many in this country fear losing their jobs if they take a day off. While calling in sick is not the best way to go with the spirit of making Election Day a holiday, if it’s the only way, so be it.

It’s important to start doing this in 2007 to get the momentum going. So when you take Election Day off in 2008, and your boss asks why Election Day is so important, you can say, “Remember in 2007 when I took off for Election Day. Well, Election Day 2008 is much more important. This is about supporting democracy in this country I love, the United States of America.”

When I heard Naomi Wolf speak recently in Chicago, she spoke of a monthly Constitution Day on the 6th of each month, starting with November 6. While I like the idea of a holiday to celebrate the Constitution, starting with one holiday a year is a good place to begin. And Election Day is the best place to start.

So now you’ve established the day as a holiday. What should you do?

Well, it can’t be like the other holidays where we rest in our pajamas, watch parades and football, or sleep. This is not a relaxing holiday. But you do need some symbols to help you get in the holiday spirit.

* Songs: Christmas and holiday songs get us in the mood for that season. But you’re not limited to winter songs. The Washington SquaresFourth Day of July” is a great patriotic song I personally play every Independence Day. And you can find some appropriate freedom or Constitution songs, ranging from ’60s protest songs to Bruce Springsteen’s new album “Magic” or even the soundtrack from the movie “1776.”

* Patriotism: The beauty of true patriotism is that there is no defined list about what makes someone patriotic. If you have to wear a flag lapel on your coat, do so. Flying a flag works for a lot of people. If you just want to wear red, white, and blue, that can be patriotic as well. You can get by with buttons supporting your favorite candidates. I always like taking my voting receipt and displaying it by my desk to show off that I voted.

* Food: Many holidays are associated with food, so food can be a useful way to express patriotism. Don’t get caught up in the apple pie and hot dog mentality. Baking crow pies for the losers can be a healthy outlet. In fact, you should probably cook ahead of time, or just make sandwiches; it’s going to be a long day and you need your strength.

From there, it’s up to you. Do you want to help get senior citizens and the disabled to the polls? Last-minute phone calls reminding people of Election Day? Volunteer for your favorite candidate? Or even volunteer as an election judge or poll worker? Whatever you do, your goal is to spread democracy. So get into the holiday spirit with your new holiday, Election Day.

Written by democracysoup

November 2, 2007 at 1:17 pm

Posted in Uncategorized