An Open Letter to the BC Teachers’ Federation – A Reflection on Military “Propaganda”

Note: The following letter was forwarded to me and is reprinted here with the author’s permission. The individual has asked that they remain anonymous to prevent any internal backlash. As today is Remembrance Day here in Canada, I felt obligated to reprint it today more than ever. 

Dear Sir or Madam,

It is regrettably with a heavy heart that I find myself writing to you today, and I wish to direct these words to whomever is responsible for the approval and creation of the poster found in the link included below:

http://bctf.ca/uploadedFiles/Public/SocialJustice/Programs/GlobalEd/Military_Recruitement_Web.pdf

This poster was brought to my attention today by a colleague, and it is my understanding that it owes it’s creation to the Social Justice department of the British Columbia Teacher’s Federation. I must admit that my initial feelings upon seeing this poster were that of outrage. Tempted as I was to call your organization and lodge a complaint, I decided instead to think about what I had seen and why someone might have thought that the creation and distribution of such nonsense might have been a good idea in the first place. As the afternoon wore on, I cooled off enough to get my thoughts in order and came to the conclusion that perhaps the individual or individuals, whatever the case may be, that generated this work may just be ignorant as to the function of the Canadian Armed Forces. Perhaps it was a case of best intentions gone horribly wrong, or maybe the heart was in the right place but the head was firmly stuck up the arse?

Whatever the case may be, this issue still needs to be addressed as I think the author of this work failed to take a number of things into consideration. But I must start with disclosing the fact that I am currently an active serving member of the CAF with 17 years of service, with multiple tours of duty, and many numerous operations both domestic and international. So perhaps my opinions on this subject does contain a certain amount of bias. That being said, when it comes to social issues facing Canadians today you won’t find a stronger supporter than me. I truly believe that the level of social development this country has achieved is what has made us a truly wonderful society. And although there is always room for improvement, you would be hard pressed finding a more diverse or inclusive land to live in. Values like these are what makes us unique in many regards, and many across the globe hold us in high esteem and as a beacon of hope for the rest of the world to emulate. It is values like these that make me proud to call myself a Canadian, and it is values like these and the people that hold them dear that I would do anything to protect. Which, as it happens, is why I do what I do. So that is why it breaks my heart to see those who claim to fight for social justice slander those of us who actively fight to protect it.

So lets look at the poster. Your poster is divided into two parts, or at least it is laid out that way on your website. The top half as I am looking at it asks “Are You Thinking About The Military?” in an uneven and gritty font seen often in numerous anti-drug posters from the 80’s, no doubt this was done to really jump out and grab the attention of the youth you are so worried about losing to the brainwashing of Canada’s mighty and fearsome military juggernaut. The rest of the first page goes on to encourage prospective recruits to ask questions to themselves, their family, and their recruiter. Now this portion I can totally get behind 100%, as these are all very good and important questions that should be asked before making a decision. Pursuing any career requires plenty of foresight and careful consideration, and the military is no different. What irks me is not the first page, which is good food for thought for anyone toying with the idea of a career in defense, but the second page.

Here, the gears get switched here as the author(s) attempt to build a case against the defense of their own country. The first point on the poster encourages the readers to raise awareness with teachers that military recruiting is a social justice issue. That is false. Military recruiting is no more a social justice issue than picking up after your dog is an environmental issue, or losing a loonie in the couch cushions is an economic issue.

The next two bullets instructs teachers to report the sightings of recruiters to their unions, and for students to report the same to their teachers. In this case it feels like the creator is somehow drawing comparisons that men and women in uniform should be treated no differently than some stranger in a dirty trench coat skulking down the halls of a public school. Not to mention missing the fact that recruiters do not show up unannounced and uninvited to places of learning. When they do show up, it  is arranged ahead of time and usually coincides with a career day or a job fair. Military recruiters do not, I repeat do not hide outside in the bushes ready to grab the first kid they see and throw them in the back of a cargo truck to be shipped off to war. Really the whole tone of this second page is rather alarmist while being short on actual facts.

Bullet number four encourages educators to teach all sides of the story to the students, as well as the sobering facts and figures that come with it. This I actually do respect and encourage as well. However if the teachers who are supposedly teaching all sides of the story from an unbiased perspective are the same ones who can’t tell the difference between recruiters and pedophiles lurking in the halls, then I think that any hope on encouraging fair and thoughtful discussions in our classrooms is probably lost.

Moving on, point five encourages us to support counter-recruitment programs in schools. Well we certainly don’t want our kids to find jobs, do we? No, better to get an arts degree and live in your parents basement suite until you’re 38. Point six, pretty much just an extension of point five. The materials used I imagine are probably construction paper, glue sticks, and lies.

Point seven provides a link to another webpage, one that at first I couldn’t tell if it was actually being serious or not. At times, Operation Objection seems to depart from reality altogether and devolve into some sort of self parody that had me scratching my head in confusion. If these are the kinds of resources your department is using as a tool for developing social justice policies, then I think you may need to pump the brakes and take two steps back from the whole campaign while you give your head a shake. At the very least try to reach out to other groups and get some educated opinions on defense policy, and try not to rely solely on a website that claims that the cadet program is Canada’s effort to raise an army of child soldiers. Really, I can’t even be upset with them because the nonsense being spewed is so surreal.

The next point encourages the public to do what they can to counter “military propaganda”. Now, I’m not sure what you consider military propaganda to be, and quite frankly I’m a little bit confused by this one. With a budget of only 0.9% of the country’s GDP, we can’t even afford to keep our aging aircraft flying, let alone run some sort of slick propaganda machine to brain wash the masses. What exactly do you consider propaganda to be in this case anyway? Would that be recruitment posters? Cause that’s not actually propaganda, those are the equivalent to “Help Wanted” adds. I’m sure you don’t open the news paper in the morning, flip to the classifieds, and say to yourself “Aha! There’s a job opening at Sears, this is a prime example of Retail Propaganda!”. Of course you don’t, that would be very silly. The rest of the points on the poster I’m not going to bother touching, it’s late here and if you haven’t figured it out yet then a few more lines probably won’t help any.

I’ll finish this off by saying that despite your best intentions, I found this poster to be grossly offensive and I consider it a personal slap to the face after spending the last 17 years serving my country and people the best way I knew how. If there is anything you can take away from this letter, let it be this. We’re not monsters, murderers, political party hacks, or shills for the military industrial complex. We are public servants, nothing more nothing less. And we take great pride in serving the public, even when at times the public doesn’t seem to reciprocate those feelings. We do our jobs the best we can, despite the fact that we are short on equipment, funding, and people. Somehow we still manage to get the job done, despite all these challenges. And despite the great cost that all to often comes with the job. The hardships, the injuries, the fractured families, the lives lost, all to serve the public.

To serve Canada, the people, and all they stand for, that’s what they do. And for your department to spit in the face of all we have accomplished, all we have sacrificed, and have the audacity to call that “social justice”? Well, I guess some people just don’t get it. Tomorrow is Remembrance Day, and I will go to the ceremony and pay my respects to those who have fallen. Those who decided to give instead of take. Then I will go home, pour myself a drink, and think long and hard about the friends I’ve seen come and go through the years. Those who gave and were injured in such ways that they couldn’t give any more, those who became frustrated at the bureaucratic red tape and the disrespect from misguided campaigns such as this and left the service frustrated and broken, and those who gave their lives because at the end of the day there was nothing left to give. I will think of them all for a long time, about who they were, what they did, and what they stood for. I shall reflect on them for a long time. Then I will think about your department, this campaign of yours, and all the good it has achieved.

I won’t have to think about that for very long.
Regards,

[Redacted]

 

Note: Because today is Remembrance Day, and in light of the above message being spread by the BC Teacher’s Federation, it seems appropriate to end this post with In Flanders Field by John McCrae, composed on the battlefield on May 3rd, 1915.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place: and in the sky
The larks still bravely singing fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead: Short days ago,
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved: and now we lie
In Flanders fields!

Take up our quarrel with the foe
To you, from failing hands, we throw
The torch: be yours to hold it high
If ye break faith with us who die,
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields

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