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Trudy Klassen: Remembering to rise up

The most magnificent thing humans can do is reverse themselves when they realize they made a mistake. It takes humility to admit we are wrong.
ukraine canada flag
Ukrainian and Canadian flag

Every year at Remembrance Day ceremonies we say “Lest we forget.”

Yet, here we are, in 2022, making the same mistakes over and over again. We haven’t learned. We haven’t “evolved” into a superior human race. We really need to give up on that utopian dream. People are people and we don’t really change. This is both good news and bad news.

Bad news first.

Remember Japanese reparations that Canada paid for treating Japanese-Canadians terribly during the Second World War? Remember the Chinese head tax redress? Yet here we are, punishing ordinary Russians for the crimes of their government. Sanctions against Putin and his oligarch allies are a good start to supporting Ukraine. Not allowing Russian teams to play in international tournaments may be justified, but Milan University cancelling a course on Dostoevsky, Montreal Symphony Orchestra cancelling shows by 20-year-old piano prodigy Alexander Malofeev, and vandalizing Russian businesses and churches cannot be justified.

This is happening while Western allies of Ukraine pretend that Putin can be “appeased,” into being satisfied with only killing Ukrainians. As if that is somehow acceptable. NATO is still refusing to close Ukrainian airspace so that civilians and infrastructure aren’t smashed to pieces due to concerns about escalation. These concerns are too similar to Neville Chamberlain’s misunderstanding of Adolf Hitler.

Humans can be absolutely awful.

However, the good news is that sometimes we can be good.

The most magnificent thing humans can do is reverse themselves when they realize they made a mistake. It takes humility to admit we are wrong. Milan University reversed itself and have now reinstated the course on Dostoevsky. Also, there has been an outcry against the Russian church vandalism, so hopefully this won’t happen again.

Sometimes we can rise to the occasion. Winston Churchill had been widely ridiculed for his views about Hitler’s intentions. However, after Chamberlin lost a vote of confidence, Churchill put aside the past and formed a coalition government with MPs that had been his enemies. Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky was a comedian and actor prior to running for office but has risen to the occasion of uniting his country to put up a credible fight against Putin’s military. War is clarifying and Zelensky has proven to be much more substantial than he appeared previously.

Locally, without leaving the comfort of our cozy homes, we can support UNBC Timberwolves basketball player Vova Pluzhnikov’s campaign to raise funds for his homeland.  You can donate to his campaign specifically by going to the Facebook page “Prince George for Ukraine” and clicking on his link to donate to the Red Cross.  

Perhaps giving will reduce the guilt we will feel this Remembrance Day and make us a little less hypocritical as we repeat those immortal words.

Lest we forget.