The other day heading up the street to run errands, I noticed this sign.

Ali Baba sign for veterans' dinner

And my first thought was that it was a nice gesture. Except then I got to thinking…

This area has a lot of people of German extraction. Kitchener was Berlin until 1916. I can’t imagine every person who lives here and who has a background that happens to be on the Bad Guys’ side of the World Wars arrived (or their family arrived) prior to 1914. I wonder how a sign like that would make me feel if I was a Canadian citizen and a veteran who didn’t fight for Canada, the US, or Great Britain.

It reminded me of the girl I went to high school with (I’ve told this story here before, I’m sure), who was in Air Cadets, and who went to one of the war memorials on Remembrance Day one year. A veteran there started talking to her, and asked if her family had served. She said they had, and when he asked where and with whom, she told him what areas of the German forces they’d served in. The conversation pretty much ended after that.

I guess her grandpa wouldn’t be welcome to enjoy a free steak dinner.

I buy poppies now. I never used to. I even went out of my way on the weekend to buy one from a veteran. (He flirted with me; it was pretty awesome.) I don’t buy them out of any sense of remembrance or patriotism or whatnot, really. I buy them because the money goes to help people.

And as time passes, acts like buying a poppy make me think about how things change, and how history illustrates how we change as people. And how, really, the Bad Guys stop being specific people or countries and can be more accurately identified as Bad Ideas. Racism, sexism, homophobia, antisemitism, and all the other ills of the world that flare up and over which battles break out from time to time.

Of course, we humans like our enemies clearly defined and thoroughly blame-able. So I’m sure by the time that there are no more Canadian, US, or British veterans of the old conflicts, we’ll have a new set of identified enemies that threaten us, and we’ll make new veterans to toast with steak dinners and support with poppy drives.

90 or 60-odd years ago, our enemies looked different than those we’ve pegged as our enemies today. How interesting, though, that in the decades that have passed, we as a country have come to physically resemble every group we’ve pegged as an enemy, either at present or in the past.

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