I’ve been getting a lot of great email these days. It’s as though I’ve signed up to some awesome all-inclusive mail delivery service that has a sole purpose of keeping me happy and well-informed. Don’t recall signing up for such a thing, but clearly they’ve found me. Thank you all-inclusive mail delivery service for always thinking of me.
The emails are really helpful. For example, I didn’t even realize that my PC has a vicious virus that almost certainly will require me to provide credit card information, serial numbers, passwords, first-born child. Heck, I didn’t even know I had a PC. It was an Apple when I got it, but apparently it is now a PC, and it has a virus. Just lucky for me that the Microsoft people became aware of it, and have a fix.
Elsewhere in email, my bank is asking me to verify my account. They are very insistent about it, which makes sense, they are simply worried because I am seriously overdrawn. It requires my immediate attention in order to prevent the account from being shut down. What a worry for me, if they shut down my bank account I’ll be in a fix, alright.
I didn’t even know I had an account at that bank.
Or that bank.
Or that one.
Pretty sure my friends from Nigeria can help with the overdraft, though.
Hold on, more mail. Oh, okay, Visa just needs me to click their link for confirmation, otherwise my account will be suspended. They don’t want to have to suspend me, they are actually really upset to even consider such a thing, but their hands are tied after becoming aware of suspicious activity on the account, and clicking the link is their only way to confirm that the account has not been compromised. I’d better do it, because account suspension would suck after I’ve just clicked on a link in another email from them to get their premium card.
And whoa, look at that, my online ad for a slightly damaged rubber chicken (head chopped off) for sale at $1.27 just got a response from someone who wants to pay me $50,000, and they even said to keep the head (which is in use), because they only need the body. At last, someone who appreciates the true value of a headless rubber chicken.
Ha, an email from Apple . . . oh ho ho ho, wait just a cotton-pickin’ minute. This is such a scam.
I mean, come on now, I wasn’t born yesterday. I’d never rent Beetlejuice.
Hmm, it might be legit after all, there’s a link if the purchase isn’t one I authorized. Maybe they just made an honest mistake. It happens.
Aha, another email from my Nigerian friends. I have a lot of Nigerian friends, I think we all do. I’d go so far as to say that if you ever feel lonely, just know that someone in Nigeria is thinking of you. Guaranteed. And they want to give you money.
Hold on, one more email. Aha, this one is from a charity, asking for money to help the Syrian refugees. Well, of course, it is the right thing to do, and I think I have a good solution. I’ll just send them to my rich Nigerian friends.
With each year, Remembrance Day grows more angst-ridden and superficial, with too much focus on the banal online messages and too little on simple silence for contemplation.
Consider something different this year. Honour the war dead with your willingness to learn, and to teach. Educate yourself, and the young members of your family who have almost certainly not been taught much about the Great War, WW II, and the Forgotten War.
Sure you could just take the short-cut instead. You can go to Facebook, change your profile picture to one of your family members who was in a war, then post a few of the endless chain-letter messages that are making the rounds. Messages that read approximately along this line:
“Share if you honour the people who died fighting for our country. They died for our FREEDOM. I know 95% of you won’t care enough to share, but my real friends will, because they DO CARE.”
So easy. Five minutes and you’re done. You’ve presented your ‘Look at me, I care’ facade, and even if it is empty of any real meaning, you look pretty good to so many who are doing the same thing. Not the ones who lived through those times, of course, but to your contemporaries. It’s the Facebook “Look at me”, Remembrance Day Edition.
Here’s another route you could take, though.
Your Remembrance Schedule
Spend time this week watching war documentaries and movies. Read up on the Great War, WW II, the Forgotten War, and any war or conflict in which Canadians have served. Why? Because to feel something for the people who gave their lives, you must first understand what it is they gave their lives for. And what they suffered. Don’t be the idiot politician who mades a stupid joke then explains it away by saying, “'I didn't know what Auschwitz was.”
Start looking: What was the 'Forgotten War'? What was the 'Final Solution'? What was BCATP? Why do the Dutch love Canadians so much? What is the significance of Juno Beach? Can you picture what it was like to be in the trenches during the Great War?
If you have a surviving relative who fought in the war, visit. Or visit with an unknown veteran. Don’t do all the talking. Listen. Ask questions, but if they don’t want to answer, let it be, just be there with them. Don’t be maudlin. This modern angst we embrace is alien to the people of that era. They were the ‘just get it done’ people, not the teary ‘oh I am really super sad about all this’ people.
If you have a relative who served but who is now dead, visit the grave. Lay flowers, recite In Flanders Fields, think about the things you learned from your reading. And you really don’t need to show off on Facebook about it. Just do it.
Grab your kid, and start teaching them this endlessly fascinating history. Here’s a place to start: http://www.ducksters.com/history/world_war_ii/
Make it about remembering, not about telling people you’re remembering. There’s a difference.
Simplistic messages that say ‘they died for our freedom’? Easy. Learning something about the history of the wars? Not as easy, but infinitely more meaningful, as it honours the memory of those who fought much more than the two-second platitudinal message forwarded ad nauseum around Facebook.
So sure, go ahead and post that picture of your grandfather who fought in WW II. But please, know what the uniform meant . . . and make the words your own.
You’ve read this poem before. Please read it one more time, with feeling.
In Flanders Fields
by John McCrae 1915
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
f ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
Social media has made a dramatic difference in the way we stay connected to the world around us. It allows us to keep our grubby little fingers on the pulse of current societal sentiment, and an hour doesn’t pass without checking that pulse.
“Hmm, I wonder if everybody is still thinking the same thing they were thinking five minutes ago?”
“OMG, YES! They ARE!”
The negative side to having one’s finger on the societal pulse is that it’s not only throbbing and crawling into your head to leech away all coherent thought, it is constantly telling you what to do.
What to do, when to do it, why to do it, where to do it and how to do it - the Nanny State is alive and flourishing in social media. Look under that rock. You won’t find a commie rat, you’ll find a yenta ready to lecture you on what you’re doing wrong.
The just-ended election season is a good example.
Every adult in Canada knew that they could vote. All of ‘em. No, really. They knew. They may have chosen not to vote, but they knew they could if they wanted to. Yet the bombardment of ‘be sure to vote!’ ‘don’t forget to vote!’ ‘I am voting’ scoldings lit up social media like a ticker tape on speed.
Social media scolds think that until you do as they say, you need to keep hearing their heartfelt message. Again and again, repeatedly, incessantly. Since they are never quite sure you’ve got the message, they won’t stop until you murder them.
Short of completely disconnecting yourself from the world of social media, there’s no escape.
Be sure to vote.
Get yourself vaccinated on a schedule as prescribed by knowledgeable doctors.
But don’t get your dog vaccinated on a schedule as prescribed by knowledgeable veterinarians.
Don’t ever adopt a pet from (fill in blank).
Share if you care.
Vote for my photo, not because you think it is the best but because I said so.
Bicycling: Wear a helmet, don’t ride on the road, don’t ride on the sidewalks, don’t ride on trails, don’t ride off-trail . . . oh just sell the damn bike, wouldya?
Will real life be next?
“Heyyyyyyyyyy, thanks for inviting me over!”
“So glad you could come . . . oh, could you take off your shoes please?”
“I . . . oh right, umm, sure.”
“My floors are super important to me, so I make my guests take off their shoes whether they want to or not. Actually, you should do it at your house too, okay? Oh hey, would you like a drink? I have wine . . . unless you’re driving, of course. Will you be driving five hours from now when you leave? If so, no wine for you.”
“No, but I’m pregna . . . oh damn, that slipped out.”
“Ha, congratulations on not getting any wine for the next nine months! Or longer, if you plan to breastfeed.”
“You WILL be breastfeeding, right? You must. It’s child-abuse if you don’t breastfeed. And speaking of abuse, is that your dog? You brought your dog without scheduling a playdate with our dog to gauge compatibility?”
“Oh come on, it’s a dog. They’ll get along fine.”
“You actually just said ‘it’s a dog’??? He’s your FUR-BABY, not a DOG. No wonder he looks so sad. How often do you walk him? And for how long, and how far? On pavement or grass? In a dog park? What do you feed him? Whatever you’re doing, it’s wrong. We need to talk.”
“Oh for . . . look, I’ll go put him in the car, okay?”
“WHAT???? It’s 20C outside! He’ll DIE from the heat . . . err cold . . . umm, well, loneliness. What are you THINKING??”
“Fine. Can I leave him on the porch?”
“Thank you. I’ll secure the area to keep him safe from puddle water, predators, dogs, cats, birds, trees . . . say, have you had your ‘flu shot yet?”
“I . . . no way, you can’t be serious. You know there’s an immune-compromised person living just six houses down from here. She’ll probably get the 'flu now and die because of your negligence.”
“No wait, haha, I lied, I had the shot, okay? No really! Hey, what’s for supper, then? I’m craving beef, dammit. Gimme da beef, haha.”
“!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I . . . there are no words. We are vegetarians, you know. Sit down with your glass of water and I will tell you why you must become one as well.”
“Ohhhhhhhhh, gee, umm, well actually, I think I left my stove on, I really need to go home now.”
“Well, you know you should make a check-list of what to do before leaving the house, and always check it. Let me show you how to do that.”
“That’d be great, but man, look at that, my head just exploded. I’m going to collect all the pieces and go home now, okay? Please?”
“Be sure to bundle up, be careful of the cars, don’t talk to strangers, come to a full stop at the light, drive the speed limit, lock your door once you get inside your house. . . .”
If the title of this column makes you shrug because you think it makes pretty good sense, you are probably a card-carrying member of the State The Obvious Club.
If the title makes you shriek and whack the person nearest you in frustration, you are correct.
Like it or not, the world is full to overflowing with state-the-obviousers. If you’re on facebook, you meet them all the time.
A picture of something awful, maybe an abused animal, will be posted, with the comment, “This is so sad!”
You don’t say.
I don’t mind it on facebook, because it provides irate people a chance to make snide remarks in response. In the real world, though, snarking at state-the-obviousers (STO) can be exhausting and time-consuming.
The STO, standing outside in the pouring rain, unfortunately right beside you: “Wow, it’s raining!”
“Oh? You don’t say. Thanks for the heads up on that, because I didn’t notice the rain through the raindrops covering my glasses.”
Next day, heading out the door, the STO pauses and says, “I have to go to the store now, I think I’ll walk.” So far so good, the person is just stating intentions, not the obvious. Then they ruin everything by adding, as though divulging hot-off-the-presses information, “The store is only a block away . . .” and then, oblivious to the sensitive nature of the listener, they drive the nail further in by finishing with a flourish, “and it’s a sunny day.”
I grew up in a family of minimalists who never stated the obvious. There was an assumption that if, for example, one of us said ‘let’s go’, that everybody would instinctively know where, when, how and why.
If we had ever been out in the middle of nowhere and one of us was hurt, the scenario would have played out something like this:
“Oh no! I fell, and the knife I was carrying just went right through me. What should I do?” said a hapless member of the family, over-explaining through tears.
“Well, isn’t it obvious?” said all members of the family, in disgust.
“No, seriously, I’m dying here, what should I do?”
“Well, if you can’t figure it out, there’s not much hope for you, is there.”
“Oh, okay.” said the victim, and died.
I don’t think my parents over-explained a single thing, ever. They barely explained, much less over-explained. They felt that you could either figure it out or not, and that was bloody well that.
And now, decades later, I am surrounded by a daughter and husband who are card-carrying members of the State The Obvious Club. The scenario above would play out very differently with this group.
Victim (oh let’s face it, probably me) falls on the knife, and lies there gasping, because what is there to say, really. It’s obvious what is going on.
Heather: “Is that a knife sticking in you?”
Jim: “That looks as though it would hurt.”
Heather: “Mum, that knife seems like a really bad thing. Are you okay with it?”
Jim: “A knife sticking in you will harm your body.”
Heather: “Mum, it might be a good idea to remove that knife.”
Jim: “Is that why you’re lying on the ground making those godawful noises?”
Heather: “Did the knife go in when you fell?”
Jim: “Are you bleeding?”
Heather: “I think she is. Bleeding happens when you have a knife sticking in you.”
Jo: “Oh god, just let me die now.” and died.
More Old as dirt. Twice as gritty. articles
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- Exploding heads Aug 24
- Princess Jim Aug 10
- Lion-hearted you Jul 31
- Said no one ever Jul 27
- The bubble burst Jul 13
- Hold on, are you sure? Jun 29
- Happy-o-rama Jun 15
- Peeve-o-rama Jun 1
- Greenway wars May 18
- A real mother of a day May 9