I am a social justice warrior. I realize there are many people use that term like an insult. There are people who want to associate social justice with being a bleeding heart, beta, blue pill or a cuck. They want to make advocating for social justice seem self-righteous, rude, aggressive, condescending and even violent.
But I just believe in human rights and a progressive social vision for our future. I believe that rights come with responsibilities. I believe that freedom is not free. It comes at a high price.
And that is why I love Remembrance Day. It is a day when we remember the price of freedom. In Canada we lost nearly 50,000 people to defeat fascism. We sent over a million soldiers. We had an entire generation suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Parents who were severely traumatized raised millions of sons and daughters. Imagine the impact in Russia where over 20,000,000 people died in that war.
My grandpa was in the battle of Dieppe. He married my grandma in Winnipeg only weeks before hopping on a train and spending four years at war in Europe. He was shot and nearly drowned during the siege at Dieppe. After recovering at a military hospital he was sent back to the front lines.
I cannot imagine the horror he faced. I cannot imagine how my grandma felt after getting a letter telling her that her husband was missing in action. I cannot imagine coming back to Canada and just being expected to settle down and get back to work.
You are surrounded by deafening explosions, watching your friends bleed and die in the mud, having no choice but to shoot and kill people in order to survive. And then one day they tell you it is over. Now go home and raise a family. Just like that.
I think it is very important that we remember the price that has been paid for our freedom. German fascists banned unions, turned education into Nazi indoctrination, shut down small businesses, made women give up their jobs to focus on raising children, stripped Jews of their citizenship and banned Jewish children from schools, and made massive investments in the military. We should have seen the concentration camps coming.
We should have done something sooner. But Neville Chamberlain, the British PM, colluded with Hitler and agreed to look the other way as long as the German military only moved east toward Russia. It wasn’t until Hitler came west that the British, and later the Americans, got involved.
We paid for that collusion. We paid for our ignorance. The Ford motor company had factories in Nazi Germany and we agreed to not bomb their factories, which later turned out to be producing tanks. Working class people paid dearly for the greed and self-interest of corporations who did not want to compromise their German investments. We pay for their wars.
And we will continue to pay if we choose not to remember. This sacred day is an opportunity to remember how horrible things can be if we allow hate and intolerance to grow unfettered. Freedom of speech is a lovely thing to celebrate, but we need to remember that the publication of Hitler’s Mein Kampf was made illegal in post-war Germany. They recognized that the book bred hate and intolerance. Hate speech set the stage for the Nazi’s to seize control of the German state.
Freedom is not free. We have to make hard decisions. It is not as much fun as partying, binge-watching Netflix, and buying new gadgets. But those things are all meaningless. They provide us with no lasting joy. They contribute nothing to the world. They give nothing to others. They are a hedonistic retreat from the harsh reality that inequality and intolerance are growing all around us.
Nobody wants to pick up the cross. But that is precisely what is required. We need to create space for the voiceless and marginalized. We need to demand more from our governments and from each other. We need to be courageous in our compassion. We need to be fierce in our defense of human dignity and freedom. We need to speak truth to power even though the powerful never seem to listen. Even though it seems like a drop in the bucket. We need to remember that the freedoms we have now were earned with the lives of our grandparents.
We need to not only love and respect the sacrifices that created the freedoms we enjoy today; we need to make sacrifices ourselves.
What does that mean in practical terms?
That is not for me to say.
That is on you.