Monday, May 31, 2010

Robin Hood

I say nothing. I’m not supposed to. There are conversations you are a part of and conversations you’re there only as a witness. I am a witness. That’s fine with me. Billy Coffey Honoring the Price of Freedom

Over at katdish's blog, there's a powerful guest post from Billy Coffey entitled, Honoring the Price of Freedom.

I'm always interested in what gets people excited. It almost always gets down to right and wrong. -- I believe it is so wrong, or I believe it is so right. In this case, the man Billy writes about is upset because President Obama is not going to be laying a wreath at Arlington on this Memorial Day in the US.

They're a feisty folk our neighbours to the south. Feisty in a good way -- even when the good goes wrong and the world is lambasting them for their insistence they have the right to set things right where ever they are.

It is something I admire about my neighbours -- they are willing to stand up for what they believe in and put their lives on the line so that others can stand up for their beliefs too. And they don't forget those who fell in the battle.

When I was a young girl in my teens, growing up on a Canadian Force's Base in Germany, there was a sign at the edge of the Kaserne where the High School was located that I had to pass everyday on my way home. It read something like: The person you see reflected here represents Canada. Act accordingly.

Act accordingly.

What did that mean, I wondered? What did acting Canadian really mean. It is part of our Canadian condition -- we wonder what it means to be us and define ourselves by what we're not. We're not American. We're not brash or brazen in our flag-waving. We're more like milk-toast to their barbeque. Tepid and bland as opposed to fiery and hot. And then, in our self-effacing way we jokingly applaud our neighbours for their pride while secretly shunning them for their sinfulness.

We're self-deprecating we Canadians -- and that's not a good thing. So, when I read Billy's essay this morning, I wanted to applaud him for he brings up an important issue in a creative and caring way.

It isn't that Obama isn't going to lay a wreath at Arlington. It is what the story becomes about rather than the facts.. President Obama will be laying a wreath -- just not at Arlington. He's on vacation in Chicago and will be laying one just south of the windy city.

What fascinates me about this story, however, is how it can polarize a nation through the pros and cons of what we make it out to be. He's honouring the military. He's dishonouring the military because he doesn't like the military.

When I first read Billy's story, I wondered what would I do if our Prime Minister didn't lay a wreath on Remembrance Day? Would it make a difference in my Canadian psyche? What is my position on our military? Really? Do I want Canadian boys being killed in Afghanistan? Do I want the Afghanie people to be free? Do I care?

And then, I wondered. What is this story really about? Is it about Obama's leadership or lack thereof? Or, is it about what his actions are saying about his belief in the importance, or lack of importance, of honouring those who have fallen in battle on this day. It poses a great question -- How do we stay true to our personal beliefs when we are faced with upholding the collective beliefs of our people, our organizations, our employers, our schools, our families... Because in this instance, Obama is laying a wreath -- just not at Arlington. He's on holiday with his family -- and isn't that okay?

But really -- what does his holiday plans and where he's laying a wreath have to do with me here in Canada?

It isn't so much what he is or isn't doing that affects me. It's my response to Billy's story that's at issue. I sympathized with the vet Billy writes about -- and I didn't sympathize with the vet Billy writes about.

There will always be men (and women) willing to go to war. And there will always be those of us sitting by the hearth, applauding and condemning them.

Last night four of us went to see, Robin Hood. I enjoyed it. It's a tad bloody at times but it was a really enjoyable and entertaining film. Nothing too mind-warping. Just an interesting back-story to the legend of a man about whom 'the truth and nothing but the truth' will ever be known. The film takes lots of creative license with the tale -- why not? there are so many versions of who Robin Hood was, or wasn't and what he (or as some think 'they') did. But for me, one of the most telling moments was a mother asking Robin Hood who poses as Robert Loxley, regent of Nothingham, "Will our boys be coming home soon?"

War does that. Takes boys away from their homes and makes them men, or makes them dead.

In this Robin Hood, historical figures are created from the myths and given new names to suit the times. Godfrey is created on the story of King John's notorious and most treacherous henchman, Guy of Gisbourne.

Sir Walter Loxley may or may not have existed -- but, in the film he plays a role pivotal to the eventual creation and signing of the Magna Carta -- a piece of historical writing that has inspired our Charter of Rights today.

Men died long ago so we may be free today. Throughout time, men have gone to war and died in the belief that what they were doing was the right thing to do. Mere men have become heros, for no matter the times, we have always needed and wanted heroes. Men of such stature that we could pin our hopes and dreams on their deeds. That we could know what it means to be true.

President Obama is laying a wreath today in Chicago in honour of men and women who have fallen throughout time, and the world, in pursuit of a dream. And somewhere, even in Sherwood Forest, markers rest where once they fell in pursuit of beliefs and fortunes, dreams and ideal.

I wonder if anyone will be laying a wreath today for Robin Hood?

1 comment:

Maureen said...

My friend Jay posted today a photograph by his wife Julia of the Navajo Veterans Cemetery. Who remembers their sacrifice in WWII? Who even remembers learning about their sacrifice?

My father is buried at Arlington. It is his honor to be there, with two of his childen.

Every day a memory fades somewhere.