Thursday, April 27, 2006

My view on the 'Flag Flap'

Since this seems to be a story that will just not go away I figured I'd get my 2 cents in.

Just let me start by saying my blogging's been a bit light this week because of two reasons: first of all, my prime blogging time (9-6) has actually been taken up with work this week. I know it's a rarity but it does happen and by the looks of things at the office it may be happening more often than not for the next couple of months. Damn development projects. Secondly, I rented a XBox 360 for the week to give the ol' tires a good kicking and have been trying to give it a fair shake. So far color me unimpressed. Sure the graphics are smoother but of the games I've tried there is really nothing that seems to require 'next generation' processing. Add to that and it's picky support of the older games and I'll just have to give it a pass. That being said, I will be picking up a Revolution as soon as it's available. If history has taught us nothing it's that Nintendo knows how to make a fun console. Even this week, with the lovely new (and surprisingly loud) 360 sitting on my floor, I've found myself turning back to play Need 4 Speed: Most Wanted on my GameCube. Although, truth be told, I only bought it last week so the sheen is still pretty new.

So back to the topic at hand.

On the subject of lowering the flag for each soldier killed in combat, I'll have to side with Harper on this one. While it is a very emotional time for the friends and loved ones of the fallen, history, and decorum, dictate that all our fallen heroes be treated equally. By continuing with the Liberals 'case by case' policy, we are in effect showing dishonour to all those soldiers who may be killed who we don't lower the flag for. If a soldier is killed while training to go to Afghanistan is his or her sacrifice not as worthy as one killed while in the field? Will we lower the flag for them? Who sets the standards? Who decides?

We know from even these past few years that there were times when the Liberals chose not to lower the flag. Why? Who knows, but my point is you either do it for everyone or not at all, anything less is a sign of disrespect that should not be tolerated. That is why the Harper government has decided to reconstitute the policy of only lowering the flag for the fallen soldiers on Remembrance day. This also helps to maintain the solemness of the action. As in everything, if the lowering of the Peace Tower flag becomes a routine event, then it begins to lose it meaning as a symbol of national mourning. That does not mean that some circumstances could not call for a lowering of the flag, such as the deaths of prominent publics servants (former MPs, PMs, etc) or national heroes, but the call to military service is a special one. MPs, for instance, are not generally called upon to put their lives at risk to perform their duties, so their deaths are generally unexpected. Members of the armed forces, on the other hand, have taken it upon themselves to put their lives on the line to protect others, and as such are much more likely to be killed or injured while performing those duties. As such we as a people, have decided that the 11th of November be put aside as our national day of remembrance for all those who have fallen and all those who have served.

Now none of this prevents local officials or the home bases of the fallen soldiers to lower their flags to honour their sacrifice, which is routinely done, but when it comes to the national stage we need to ensure that all of our fallen soldiers are treated with the respect and dignity they deserve.

On a related note, with regards to 'casket controversy' that's also been raised this week, I have to say I have a slightly different view than what appears to be the governments position. I believe it is fully justifiable to have some visuals of the caskets to act as an important reminder to the cost of war and the important job these men and women do every single day. I also agree with the governments position to allow those visuals to be recorded at the point of departure. Where I have a slight disagreement is with their policy on media coverage of the coffins arriving back on Canadian soil. While I do believe the default response should be to disallow media coverage, I also believe the final decision should be left up to the surviving family members.

While these soldiers deaths may be a national loss, they are first and foremost a private loss to their husbands, wives, children, parents, siblings, extended family and friends. For that reason I believe they should have the final say on what is or isn't to be shown once they arrive home. If they should choose to share their loss with the public, for whatever reasons they may choose to do so, then I believe they should have that right. In those cases authorized members of the media should be able to video/photograph the funeral processions from the arrival of the plane carrying the fallen soldier to whichever point the family deems appropriate. I do not, however, believe it is the media's right to broadcast these images against the wishes of the families involved. Once the soldier arrives home, then the story goes from being a national one to a private one, and I just don't think we, as a nation, should be intruding on the grieving process of a family more than they feel comfortable with. But that's just my opinion, and I can understand people may feel differently. I just don't want the deaths of our soldiers to become fodder for the type of tabloid journalism and partisanship that we see so often from the US media.


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