Thursday, October 23, 2014

Thoughts on this War

I watched the opening of parliament on TV today here in Canada.  I witnessed a rare unity of parliament, where partisan differences were put to one side.  The Prime Minister did not give a Churchillian speech.  Rather he spoke in the manner ordinary Canadians would express themselves. He spoke from the heart as a Canadian and as a parliamentarian. After his words, greeted with applause by all Members, he rose and walked to shake the hand of the Sergeant-at-arms, Kevin Vickers in thanks and then handshakes and hugs with Justin Trudeau, the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada and Thomas Mulcair the Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition in Canada and leader of the New Democratic Party.  These actions, as far as I could tell from the body language were genuine on the part of both Prime Minister and his opponents. Parliament on this day rose to its height as the chief organ of democracy in this country. We all owe to the unflappability of Kevin Vickers the fact that our democracy functioned today. From reports of his character, Mr. Vickers is a kind and gentle man with a grave demeanour, but one of those individuals who does what needs to be done, who rises to whatever the occasion demands. Thank God for that.

We are in a war now.  I am convinced of that. They say that armies are always preparing for the last war.  Yesterday in Ottawa and a few days ago in St. Jean-sur-Richelieu in Québec we saw the new face of war.  Yes, traditional bloody battles on land, sea and air will continue.  But this new face of war happens at home and in attacks from individuals or small groups who are not connected by lines of command, but through propaganda found on the internet.  This war is not a war of countries making formal declarations and putting their armed forces into the field until one side or all sides win or lose.  

This war is a war of two ways of life.  On our part, we wish for a world where people can live with friends and family  and work and play in proper measure.  On the other part, is a world of harsh dogma, where rules are set and all must live by those strict rules or die. Some here think that by bowing out of direct combat we are isolated from this.  We are not.  The ideologues hate us and will kill us when they can even if we buried all our weapons, along with our heads, in the sand.  This is not a war of religion. I teach the history of religions at the university level and know how rare purely religious wars have been, and have a good understanding of the role that religion sometimes does play in warfare.  But this is not a war of Christianity vs. Islam, or the secular West vs. the religious Islamic world.  It is a war of us - those who are atheists, agnostics, Jews, Muslims, Christians, Druids - whatever your belief, who believe that living in peace with family and friends is a higher good than strict adherence to one set of rules for existence - a war of us against those who want to enforce their view of life onto the world through violence and terror.  In the Middle East where a traditional war is raging, the ISIS or ISIL group is battling both Sunni and Shia Muslims and Christians and soon Jews.  They are a polyglot group of haters who battle ethnic groups that do not share their hideous ideology. 

Our role here in Canada is to do as parliament did so magnificently today, to continue on loving our families and friends, and working at our tasks and enjoying our play, and eschewing hate.  

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