Monday, November 24, 2014


School sucks, and so it shouldn’t surprise us that the mere mention of teachers or schools in an on-line article brings out a torrent of spittle-spewing rage from the kinds of people who like to spew spittle ragefully and by the torrent on message boards. I’ve written elsewhere about how such people are the worst humanity has to offer and, boy, do they have a lot crabbin’ to do.

Measure of Doubt regards itself as an equal-opportunity public service and therefore has developed the following template for spittle-spewing reactionaries to use on Internet message boards following any article about teachers or schools in the hopes that it might save them time. They can then turn their attention to trolling about firefighters or public art or bicycles or those damn kids who keep getting on their lawn. Here it is:


A Template for Spittle-Spewing Reactionaries to Use on Internet Message Boards Following Any Article About Teachers or Schools, by Measure of Doubt

The problem with education today is (my personal bugaboo here) which they didn't have (insert when you were in school) and also the (overpaid / coddled / lazy / uncaring)  (teachers / administrators/ parents) who have (abandoned all standards / given up caring ) and instead embraced (multiculturalism / political correctness / secularism / gay agenda / communism) because all they care about (is /are) (money / sick days / P.D. days) and indoctrinating youth into the ( Liberal Party / union / gay agenda / international communist conspiracy / ISIS ).  Whatever happened to (our values / common sense / plain old hard work)?  We need to bring back (three R’s / male teachers / basics / corporal punishment / fatal beatings / conscription) because the youth of today are (stupid / lazy / cowardly / fat / communists / atheists / terrorists / gay) who (can’t read / can’t write cursive / only take sex ed / only take square dancing) and this is the reason why we have (global warming hysteria / wind turbines / Kathleen Wynne / bicycle lanes / hip hop) (that/which/who/whom) is leading our (once great / formerly great) country that (our veterans /  brave men and women in uniform) (sacrificed / suffered for) to (hell / chaos / anarchy / collapse).  I would (call / e-mail / text / visit ) my (child’s teacher / school board head / city councillor / MP / MPP) if I (believed they weren’t part of the problem / knew who they are) and give (him/her/them) (a piece of my mind / something to think about / a knuckle sandwich). Anyone who is disagrees is probably (Kathleen Wynne / a foreigner / a communist / a hip hop artist / a bicycle commuter / gay).

For example:

“The problem with education today is the use of cell phones which they didn’t have in the 1890s when I went to school and also the overpaid teachers who have abandoned all standards and instead embraced multiculturalism because all they care about are sick days and indoctrinating youth into the gay agenda. Whatever happened to common sense? We need to bring back male teachers because the youth of today are communists who can’t write cursive and this is the reason why we have wind turbines that are leading our once great country that our veterans suffered for to hell. I would call my MP if I knew who they were and give them a knuckle sandwich. Anyone who disagrees is probably Kathleen Wynne.”

Thursday, November 20, 2014


News this morning that the Legion in Kenora, Ontario, fired its chaplain because she criticized cuts to veterans' care during her Remembrance Day benediction. Good for them. The day is supposed to be about the simple act of remembering, not politics. In fact, next year I expect to see no politicians laying wreaths at my local cenotaph. Also, they better not breathe a word about "freedom" and "democracy" either, because those are political concepts. National anthem? Got to go, because it mentions "Canada", which is a political construct.  God Save the Queen? Please.  Oh, and no poppies, either. According to the Legion, the money raised from them goes to veteran's care, and we don't want to bring that up on Remembrance Day.  So make sure your next Remembrance Day bears no relationship to anything in the real world, especially if it happened in the past. Just do what you're supposed to, please: stand there and feel guilty because your generation hasn't had a world war, you bunch of entitled slackers.

Monday, November 10, 2014


I don’t want to trust a seventeen year old memory very far, but I think it went something like this. I was watching a debate on CBC or CTV about Canada’s involvement in Kosovo. They assembled a panel: a journalist, somebody from a peace group, an RCAF veteran from the Legion (for some reason), and finally a political scientist, because in a debate it’s a good idea to have one person who might know what the hell is going on. I don’t recall much about the debate, but one thing is lodged in my memory. In rebuttal to the one panelist’s opposition to Canada’s participation in the air campaign, the veteran  said, “This young lady should go watch the first twenty minutes of the movie Saving Private Ryan to learn what soldiers sacrifice for freedom.” 

This might seem like a non-sequitur and a particularly incoherent one at that, but au contraire. Have Canadians had any societal debate in the past century that hasn’t witnessed an effort by one side or another to imbue their position with the sanctified suffering of The Fallen? Back in the day, when I read actual newspapers (and worked for one) I used to keep a clip file. In it were examples of people deploying mawkish memories of our own “Greatest Generation(s)” into debates over everything from multiculturalism to same sex marriage to educational reform to indoor smoking bans, as if the worldview of the dead – and especially the war dead – were entitled to hold dominion over the living forever. And it happens in debates over history, too. We needn’t look far for examples of historians or historical institutions who have been bullied into silence by people that Paul Fussell called “the loony patriotic.” 

I’ve written before about my growing unease with Remembrance Day, and especially about the day’s tendency to blur the distinction between commemoration and historiography. Historiography is evidence based, skeptical, and provisional in its conclusions; commemoration is subjective and emotional. Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t mind so much, if it were only for a single ceremony and for an hour. One doesn’t go to a funeral and expect to hear the unmitigated truth about the departed, after all.  But when have our circumstances ever been normal? Not since September 2001, to be sure, fourteen years in which we’ve seen the Western powers engaged in perpetual low-level war, turning the world upside down and killing – even if not intentionally – far greater numbers of innocent people than ever were killed on 9/11. 

“Oh, stop,” I’m told. “The day’s not about that. The day is simply about remembrance, not politics.”  Oh, please, I reply. What does that even mean? Remembering is not simple – not cognitively, not socially, not historically, and remembering for commemorative purposes complicates it still further. It is most decidedly not apolitical. Commemorate what? Those who fought for freedom? Tread lightly, friends, around so subjective a term: not many of those who went to war in 1914 or 1939 shared your conception of freedom. Victory, then? So am I to exclude the enemy, many of whom were, to quote Bertrand Russell, “fellow sufferers in the same tragedy as our own”?  Commemorate all combatants, then? But that would include perpetrators of hideous war crimes, and you’ll forgive me if I choose not to spare a moment to reflect on those who served that the Holocaust might continue. For starters. 

Okay. Maybe you need a moment to “just remember” (whatever that means) and you can cut through the cognitive dissonance. Maybe you don’t cringe when you hear “fought for our country” when you know damn well that sometimes they fought for our government; maybe you don’t clench your teeth when you hear “fought for our freedom” when you know that sometimes they categorically did not.  So, do what you need to on November 11th. Commemoration, like funerals, are about the living, after all, and the stories we tell ourselves so that we can carry on.  I’ll go, and reflect on victims of war and especially on those who died to defeat enemies for whom martial virtues were the only ones worth having. But I’ll also reflect that, too often, our own commemorations tread too close to that terrain, terrain where there is an implicit contempt for civilian life; terrain where there is no distinction between serving one’s country and serving one’s government; terrain where it is assumed that there is an inherent nobility in military service, regardless of the cause in which one served; terrain where, as C.P. Stacey put it in a different context, the golden haze of historical romance combines with the fog of war to reduce visibility to zero.

 “Support our troops” doesn’t mean support every stupid and immoral thing that our government wishes to do with them, and people who can’t understand the difference shouldn’t be allowed to play with soldiers.