Monday, April 9, 2007

War Relics

My family went to Ottawa, Canada's National capital, this past weekend.

It happened to be the 90th Anniversary of Canada's 'victory' and involvement in WWI, and the taking of Vimy Ridge (a wholly Canadian war success, apparently.)

Taking my nine year old daughter to the War Museum was, an experience.

We walked room upon room of relics, information plastered all over the walls, images and documentary footage screaming at us in highly stylized reproductions of moments in war-time history. Striking, it was. Overwhelming, it was. Sad, it was. An experience, it was.

The Afghanistan exhibit stood out.

Probably because it's happening now. As I pen this blog, history is in the making. With my next breath, history is being made. That history, they say, belongs to those that win.

How are we winning, when people and entire cultures are dying in this manner?

As it goes, Canada lost 6 more men the very day we were in the exhibit.

There are these posts, throughout the exhibit, where you can pencil your thoughts on questions posed to you, such as:

How do you think Canada responded to the events of September 11, 2001?

What do you think Canada's role in Afghanistan is?

There were more...but I'm drawing a blank right now. Personal commentary though, is a fabulous way to walk through an exhibit, especially when it's happening now. As I said, it's a striking exhibit.

My nine year old daughter walked with me. She wanted to answer these questions too. This meant that discussion about what is happening over there, and why it is exactly we are involved over there, and what it all means.

I am not a war expert.

I am a mother of two girls, living in Canada. I'm a Civil Servant. I'm a girl with a horse. I'm a person with thoughts. I'm an optimist, mostly.

So, when my nine year old asked me, "Why does this have to happen?" HOW was I supposed to answer that?

How would you answer that?

Right or wrong, my response to her was this, "Human Beings aren't walking perfection, so we don't always do things right, and ideas about 'what is right' are different person to person, country to country, nation to nation, war to war, and even during peace-times people disagree about 'what is right'...so, one of your responsibilities as a Human Being is to ask the questions that need to be asked, so that you can learn; so that you can form your own ideas and you can share your knowledge with your friends, your family, your community and your world...so, while I may have my own answer for 'why' this has to happen, it would be my opinion, not yours, nor that man's over there. So, why don't you write that question on the post-it note, and post it. You will have asked the first of many questions that will help you find an answer to this good question."

And she did. She also wrote her name and age on that post-it note.

She said she felt good for asking the question.

She hugged my arm as we walked away and said, "Men can be cruel, huh?"

"They can," I replied, "but their capacity for kindness is much larger."

She asked what 'capacity' means. I added, "It means that it's in each of us to use...each of us is born with a HUGE well of kindness, so we have the ability to be kind, which means we CAN; we can CHOOSE...but often we aren't able to dig into that ability, that capacity, that can-ness, unless we are learning. Just as you're learning right now. Or that child in that picture back there learns what he/she needs to learn in their experience, in their country, in this time." [Here's what I didn't say: Although, part of me wonders what you learn by having both of your legs blown off before you're 10.] "Here you are, in Canada, asking questions."

I praised her for asking the first of many questions.

She asked me what it would be like HERE, if the war was on OUR ground, IN CANADA?

Good question.

I found myself wondering if I've just become so desensitized to this war happening OVER THERE? It's not like we see or experience any real 'shortage' in our current daily lives, other than inflated oil prices at the gas pumps perhaps, from this war that we are involved in, is it?

My answer to her is that our lives would be very very different.

And that's why we go...I hope....because we are eager to learn from history. There is much to learn from eons of War and her Relics.

That's why the exhibit is there. To remind us to ask these questions.

And, it looks like I might have more questions to ask.