Monday, June 10, 2013

If you love vets, share this but Pressing 1 For English is too much to ask

I recently was checking my Facebook profile and came across a close friend who posted a pro-vet pic that requested we all share if we have the "guts" to. I so badly wanted to share it as I have friends that are vets and I have so much respect for the position. We children were all raised to respect uniforms. (A commentary for another day, I know, but it's my experience, LOL!) Growing up in a small town in central Alberta, I had access to and joined up one of the cadet organizations. I also have old friends from cadets that did join the military and are still serving. However, the pro-vet pic I wanted to share started out with a simple part, "We live in a country where you have to press one for English."There are many great blogs that likely explain why I couldn't share that picture. However, it doesn't touch on some of the thoughts attached to it that I have. 

I'll start by explaining that I grew up in a predominately white, Christian community. I was one of the only people there that was part native/First Nation at the time. (My brother was one too and far more visible than even I.) There was a family that had a white father and an East Indian mom with mixed children that were predominately East Indian, making them part of the visible minority in our town. (The family was also predominately Christian and active in that church.) All of us spoke English fluently.

English is only ONE of the settler's language. The Chinese people, who speak Mandarin and Cantonese, were instrumental in helping build up the West, the railways and our culture today. The Cree and other First Nations were the original people here yet when selecting a language, Cree or another native language, is not the first selection. (Society seems to ignore the Treaties ~ in the Calgary area, Treaty 7, as the land we are on as law yet there is an overrepresentation of First Nations in the jails for not recognizing the imposed laws of the land today by the English. Another blog for another day I guess.)

In my childhood, we recognized French as an official language of our entire country. In cadets, we actually had French day and English day where we said our commands in both languages. My gunner instructor was French. One of my school chums had a vet father who served in submarines and was French! I had a classmate who's last name was Roy. She wanted it pronounced the English way instead of French even though her mom was French. (I thought it was because by saying it French, it was like being related to Patrick Roy, a Montreal Canadian.. during the time of the Battle of Alberta.. I couldn't imagine something worse at the time, being a Calgary Flames fan. By the way, NOW I don't think being related to a member of the Montreal Canadians would be so bad.. but then I'm not a die hard hockey fan like I was then!) I'm sure there were more French in my life but I was just unaware. Now that I'm older, I am more aware how many French we do have in Alberta, even though as a child I wasn't exposed to that fact despite living in Fort McMurray and Sylvan Lake in my childhood years. (Fun fact, Alberta has the second highest number of French speakers in Western Canada.) I didn't know how hard the rights for French in military and their language were fought for as it was decades before my time. 

Pressing one for English (in the context of that picture I wanted to share) is actually subtle discrimination. By "having to" press one for English, as the picture said, it's a reminder it's we are not just an English speaking country. It's a sad reflection that even being the first language in line to press is still not good enough for some. It's a reminder that there are some intolerant enough not to recognize the other 20% of Albertans speak a different language of preference. There are 81% of the population that live in urban settings. Could you imagine if we just quit accommodating the other 19% that live in rural settings? Just because they don't live in a town/city? (You know, the folks that grow our food?) Then there is a population of the military that is French-Canadian, therefore vets.. Canadian Vets that would happily press two if that meant access to a service they are entitled to. It's insane to me that people don't recognize how subtle their discrimination is, how far reaching it is and how hypocritical it can be. However, they haven't been shown it before. I once needed a friend to tell me the expression for someone being cheap, "jewing them down" was discriminatory. (For what's it's worth, I am grateful for that friend saying it as I had no idea at that time and I didn't want to be offensive then, let alone now.) My hope is to point how "pressing one for English" isn't necessarily such a bad thing. If not, I'm grateful to type it down in words. 

Back to the vets, I do wish in our climate that our vets didn't have to go fight in wars, oppressing others in the process while believing they are helping others. I wish their job was simply to defend our borders from foreign aggressors or wear blue helmets if in foreign countries. When our military is forced to leave our soil by politicians, it's a travesty we don't care of them properly when they return. Roméo Dalliare rightfully said in his latest movie, Fight Like Soldiers, Die Like Children, that it is a reflection of failure on the politicians part to send in the military when the politicians can't sort out the issues. I just want to be able to acknowledge vets without having to be discriminatory in the process. I guess that will be another blog for another day.

Thank you for reading my blog. All the best!