Monuments - things to be fearful of? Insulted by? OR....Could a monument really be something less than sinister?
This topic has been on my mind since all of the strife in Charlottesville triggered the tearing down of monuments. As I get ready to, as project lead, install a monument to honour the 158 souls who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our country during the Afghanistan War, here in Grande Prairie, Alberta, I have to wonder.
158 names grace the monument, 158 names that are connected to families, wives, husbands, children, grand parents and uncles and aunts, cousins, all left here to miss them.
As the person who conceived the idea to build an Afghanistan War Monument & Memorial Gardens here in Grande Prairie, Alberta, it was with a heart that wanted to thank the soldiers and their families for their sacrifice and to remember that sacrifice.
WAR IS UGLY.
The Afghanistan War Monument does not glorify War and is not intended to.
It honours the sacrifice, the hurt, the pain, the sorrow, the promise cut short.
Our soldiers prepare for war, they train for it, but they do not seek it.
They go to battle by the orders they are given by the government of the day.
The men and women who answer the call to defend and protect our country, its allies and the defenceless around the world; they deserve to be thanked, to be remembered, to have their families embraced and supported.
That's what's in my heart.
That's why I have pushed relentlessly to build this monument and the gardens that will be forth coming.
MY SINGLE BIGGEST FEAR?
20 years from now, 50 years from now, 100 years from now, when I am dead and gone and can not tell you why I conceived this monument and these gardens, is someone going to take offence and pull it down? Will they decimate the gardens we are lovingly designing?
Will they deface the historical points of interest we create that tell the story of our history as a collective of humans who live on a land mass we call Canada?
If you go to Ireland, there are military monuments everywhere, even in churches.
All of these monuments thanking the people who sacrificed their lives, assuring that the story, the history of Ireland is kept alive. Many ordered at the request of a grieving spouse or family member.
Saying thank you, honouring the sacrifices of those who fought for what we believe in, is important, but what happens 100 years from now? What happens when the beliefs of our day give way to beliefs of a different nature as population demographics change?
Trying to hide the past, to rewrite it, is a dangerous thing. If something or someone being honoured is truly offensive, then build something instructive that puts the truth into perspective and park it RIGHT BESDIE THE MONUMENT. Let's remember that the art itself has a certain intrinsic value and that No one alive today knows what was in the heart of the person whose art they are defacing.
The sculpture, the foundry artist, was it just a job or a passionate creation for them?
We will never know.
AND REMEMBER - FREE SPEECH is a double edged sword.
OH, and remember something else - the whole - your rights end where they infringe on mine, is equally a double edged sword.
Now here is my stance on the politics in our country, Canada...on the removing of the names of men like John A Macdonald or removing plaques from the Confederate daughters like what happened in Montreal last week....
Without tension, pressure; carbon is just carbon. A diamond can not be created without tension or pressure. It also requires time. Canada is a young and imperfect lump of coal that is a diamond in the rough.
Our leaders have over the decades failed ALL OF US who live today in one way or the other. They were after all human.
Many lived in a time that we can not truly fathom and they made decisions that we can only guess at the reasons behind them.
Wiping them out of our history is not going to change how we got to where we are.
My motorcycle has taught me to look to where I want to go, but to glance in my rearview mirror once in a while, to measure how far I have come. History is supposed to help guide our future, it can't do that if we hide it.
It's not going to make the hurt better.
It's going to create more hurt and hatred, because as I said before - there is a double edged sword called the Charter of Rights and Freedoms - and your rights stop where they infringe on mine.
Under the Charter is that other double edged sword called freedom of speech and expression. You have your right to feel, and believe what you feel and believe. You have no right to force that on me.
You have no right to deny me my speech or expression, because we are supposed to be EQUAL.
Let's approach tender topics as equals TODAY.
None of us can change the past but we can chart a better future.
Now that the political commentary is out of the way, here is a little bit of info on the project here in Grande Prairie:
This project has three phases. Phase one, the Afghanistan War monument and the memorials to the 4 fallen from the Afghanistan war that are tied to our city.
Phase two is the building of the memorial gardens, with little memory walks inside the bigger gardens.
The outer walk way is to be the history of Canada, in War and Peace time as told from the perspective of grade 6 students.
The idea that I have pitched to our principals and teachers is that there are 15 decades, when we know how many classes, we divide the decades up - we could end up with drilling down to 1/4 decades if enough sign on. The kids will research their time period as teams, the team will collectively write an essay, deliver that essay to their classmates. It will then go to a vote and the class will present us with the 200 word essay that they feel best represents the time period.
We will get French translations done, find appropriate photos and create the historical points of interest that will then be placed in our gardens in the "Canada at War & Peace" memory walk.
We have our first schools coming on board and we only had the meeting on Monday!
Inside of that outer walkway will be smaller ones.
There will be walkways devoted to our military services clubs from across the northwestern part of Alberta. There will be one talking about Army Training Base 32 Grande Prairie and the other bases in our region. There will be walkways devoted to the history of our First Nations & Metis soldiers and we will honour and remember the Canadian Soldiers who have taken their lives because of the burden their soul carried.
The third and final phase is to find a piece of military machinery to stand sentinel in the gardens.
Lest we Forget, because if we forget, we will repeat our mistakes and the lives that were cut so short, will have been in vain.
I hope you have a blessed day and if you are lucky enough to be riding today, please remember to ride like everyone around you is blind and can not see you!
Belt Drive Betty,
Editor & Rider