Two Eras Too Similar
November 11th, Armistice Day. We stop at the 11th hour to pay respect to all those who fought and died in the World Wars and all wars thereafter. We remember why they fought but it seems clear today that is not enough.
On that Armistice Day over 100 years ago a depleted and torn world celebrated the end of one travesty of humanity while another — the influenza pandemic — used the war to lunge into a second wave and infect one third of the world, killing as many people as the Great War itself and in less time.
What a day today is, in this year 2020, barely a week past the end of an election in the United States of America that saw the most voters ever to participate in that democracy vote to end the Presidency of the most authoritarian and fascist man to ever hold that office. As I write, challenger and declared President-Elect Joe Biden has received 50.7% of the popular vote, the highest percentage of a challenger since Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932. Yet the result is not certain, the President has not conceded his obvious and legitimate defeat and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared that there, “will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration”. This is the stuff of dictators and despots.
Meanwhile, despite all our advances in the intervening century, the COVID-19 pandemic has gripped the world in a second wave that threatens to dwarf that 1918 plague as so many refuse to put reason and safety above economic and personal self-interest.
The forces arrayed against us.
Which threat is more insidious and dangerous is up for debate. In the past 4 years and then some we have seen all liberal democracies around the world come under threat from surges in populism, nationalism, right wing intimidation and violence, and hatred. Social media platforms, especially Facebook, have become rife with propaganda and misinformation, hatred and vitriol.
At the same time, forces have risen to combat this. People are demanding equality and justice for all and even for the planet as a whole. Groups like Anti Hate Canada and celebrities like Sacha Baron Cohen have organized and amplified these forces making it easier for all to do the same.
While the USA suffered through some of its most tumultuous years, Americans still managed to deliver an election result, as divided and tenuous as it may be, repudiating the wannabe-Mussolini in the White House. Here in BC after a tumultuous election of unpleasantness, a noted bigot was first removed from his association and then his office.
The forces of evil may be on the rise but we are not powerless.
Remembering history is not enough.
Our fathers and grandfathers, mothers and grandmothers, great aunts and uncles marched off to war to liberate free peoples and push back the tide of tyranny and oppression. They were ‘antifa’, battling against fascism and those who would exterminate entire cultures, and they won.
We must not shy away from our own responsibility to do the same. Our predecessors would not have stood for hatred or ultra-nationalist demagoguery, or even the anti-science climate change and pandemic conspiracies. While we may not yet be facing the horrors of the trenches or total war like they did, on this November 11 may we not only remember their cause and sacrifice, but commit ourselves to fight against the forces that would lead us down those same paths of destruction.
Header picture captured from the video at this CBC web article.