Monday, November 17, 2014

Military Monday: Civic duty

So this weekend heralded the municipal elections in the province of BC. In Canada, these elections fall under the jurisdiction of the province, and the rules are therefore provincially oriented. Depending on the province, cities and towns vote on a predetermined day every 2,3 or 4 years.

One of the neat things about our current post is the connection we have with the local community. The local mayors are very active in wing/base activities, and the wing supports the community in every way it can. It's a win-win situation that provides huge benefits, and the civilian mayors and councillors are often well known by the military residents.

In my case, for the first time since I left my hometown almost 30 years ago, I actually knew several of the candidates on the ballot--people I've met through different social events and gatherings. I was looking forward to voting for the simple fact that I could finally take my civic duty seriously, and vote for the candidate I truly believed deserved the position. I also have some strong opinions about the school system here, and had researched the school trustee candidates carefully.

When we arrived and registered at the polling station...I proudly marched in beside my husband, British Columbia ID in hand, explaining to my teens how important it was to vote, how it was our duty to make our mark on the local government...

And then I was turned away.

I was not allowed to vote.

Why? Because provincial rules dictate that I have to have lived in the province for 6 months to be eligible to vote here.

I won't lie, I was a bit miffed. Okay, a lot miffed. Other new residents--residents who have lived within the town boundaries for 30 days--were eligible to vote merely because they had come from somewhere else in BC. Whereas I, who actually had an opinion about the candidates and what they stood for, could not.

The nice people at the voting station double checked, just to be sure, and were very helpful, but I left without filling out a ballot, placing my "I VOTED TODAY!" sticker in the trash on the way out.

Instead of proving a point to my teens, I had to explain to them how my vote was not eligible--not allowed.

How is this right?

This rule basically disqualifies all military members and their spouses and adult children posted in or out of the province this summer. That's at least 3 families on my street. Dozens of families on the base. And the same would be true for any base, anywhere in the province. That's a lot of people prevented from carrying out their civic responsibilities, merely because they are military. A significant percentage of the local population.

And with the constant flux of postings (moving every three years), some people will never meet the provincial requirements.

Obviously this is a rule that needs some careful re-consideration if municipalities with Canadian military constituents are to have true representative governments. Military families may not be 'from here' but we are Canadians with the same rights and freedoms as our new neighbours. Although there are other ways to make our opinions heard, the ballot box is one of the best.

Hopefully next time I'll actually be able to make my mark, and will walk away with my "I VOTED" sticker proudly worn on my chest. Hopefully next time, I'll be able to show my kids how proud I am in my local community by carrying out my civic duty to vote.

Because I am proud. I love it here. I'll just have to find other ways to make my mark.


Monday, November 10, 2014

Military Monday: Remember

Lewis Ward Love
This man was my great uncle.

I never knew him. Little is known about his life, and even less is known about his death. He never married and had few connections. He died on a field in France, fighting a war that was nearing it's end.

If not for this picture, a few records, a headstone, and some handed-down stories, his very existence would be forgotten. He would fade away, like the thousands and thousands of World War I soldiers who signed up and sailed away, never to be seen again.

Remembering someone you never knew isn't an easy task.

It takes work to force our brains to focus on a picture of a stranger. To imagine how they lived, how they walked, the tone of their voice, their aspirations and dreams. We can find out about them through research, we can visit their gravestones. We can study the history books and ask questions of historians, but in the end, we still know very little.

But yet, it is our duty to understand that this man, like the other nameless thousands, was more than
Near Arras, France 2008
just a pawn in someone else's war. We have to fight to bring his face to mind. To really look at him and understand that whatever small part he had to play, he was there for us.

For you. For me. For our children, and their children.

Tomorrow the Last Post will play for my uncle and others like him who died in the pursuit of peace. The piper will play his lament. The silence will be held and we will bow our heads in a moment of reflection. We will somehow, in our own ways, bring their faces to mind, hear their names called and reflect on their short lives. It's not easy, but we must do it anyway. And we must teach our children to do it as well.

George Santayana is credited with the saying: "Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it." It is of utmost importance that we make the effort to remember these unknown faces. Each and every one of them.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
 ~Robert Laurence Binyon

We will remember them.