By Marvin Ross
The western world has just finished celebrating the 75th anniversary of D-Day – an event in history described by Barrack Obama at the 65th anniversary as the struggle for “a slice of beach” that changed the course of history. A somewhat more elegant statement than the comments made by Trump about whom one paper said the D in D- Day does not stand for Donald.
Obama was correct. Post World War II, we had the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe, the establishment of the UN, NATO, the development of the UN Peace Keeping Force thanks to Canadian Prime Minister, Lester B Pearson followed by the European Union.
The post war period saw tremendous economic growth in North America and Europe along with growing civil liberties and progressive policies. Abortion became legal in the US and Canada, human rights advanced as the result of sit-ins in the US, the advocacy of Martin Luther King, the creation of Human Rights Commissions in Canada and non discriminatory policies in rentals and acceptance to universities.
I don’t mean to discount the problems like the absurd War in Vietnam but that war was met with great opposition not only in the rest of the world but in the US as well.
Having grown up when the war ended as a child of working class immigrants, my own opportunities were greatly expanded. Quotas against minorities in universities were ended as well in hiring practices and rental. My fellow students at a working class immigrant high school had an opportunity to pursue post secondary learning in a variety of professions without burdening our futures with debilitating student loans.
But we are doing a disservice to the men and women who sacrificed so much during that war to ignore our recent and rapid descent from that progress and idealism.
What is happening in the US is scary. Women’s rights are under attack, violence against African Americans is increasing and while there are no lynching, there are police shootings and beatings. Election boundaries are being jigged to disenfranchise African Americans. The US has become a bully wrenching children from mothers, picking fights with various countries and I could go on.
But the US is not alone. The UK has its Brexit, Italy a right wing anti-immigrant party gaining in popularity along with similar groups in France, Germany, Hungary and Poland. Germany has just announced that it is dangerous for its few remaining Jews to wear the kippa.
Canada has a growing populist movement with a number of provinces electing right wing governments attacking the environment, poor people, workers and others. The upcoming Federal election in October will be a test of our ability to withstand the populist movement.
And then there is bigotry. Racist ideology is growing with attacks against Jews, Muslims, Blacks, immigrants, the gay community and others. The Province of Quebec is at it again with its proposed policy to prevent people from wearing religious symbols and the renewed antisemitism is infecting the left as well as the right.
After this was drafted, I read a report from a left wing source on Facebook that armed neo-nazis in Detroit showed up at the Pride Parade. Wary of fake news, I googled this to verify it and found very few references in the US other than Fox News. It was carried by papers in the UK and by the Jerusalem Post. In DC, there was a gun threat for the Pride Parade resulting in a panic and seven people were injured. Poland, however, was peaceful although the LGBT community there is under threat.
So, while we should honour those that served in World War II, and relish the progress that was made in the world after the peace, we should guard against slipping back into the conditions that precipitated that conflict as we seem to be doing. If we do not reverse course, we are screwed!