"As I mused, the fire burned"

Reflection on life as a person of faith.

Archive for April 2014

The sacrifice of the soldier

leave a comment »

I’ve been preparing for a short (6 day) battlefield tour with my family. I realize how important these teaching moments are, particularly for my daughter and her best friend – who are on their first visit to Europe to look at battlefields. There is something about walking the ground upon which the battle took place that brings the reality, and the sanctity of the moment, to real life.

I’ve set out what I consider the big, must-see sites for a Canadian: Normandy, Dieppe, Ypres, Vimy, Hill 62, Vancouver Corner (St Julien memorial), Essex Farm Cemetery (where John McCrae is reputed to have written In Flander’s Fields) and the Royal Newfoundland Memorial at Beaumont Hamel. We will see a number of other sites, but those are the essential ones to gain some understanding of the Canadian contribution to the two World Wars.

In my preparations, I read a recent book by David O’Keefe, a Canadian history professor, documenting some 15 years of research into the real reason behind the Dieppe raid. This was permitted by the British declassifying of many Ultra Secret documents from WW II, many of which are still classified.

I won’t ruin all of the things he uncovered, but he makes a compelling case that the entire Dieppe raid was a ruse to distract attention from the real mission: to allow 30 IAU (Intelligence Assault Unit) to sail into the Dieppe harbour, assault a German naval HQ, with the goal of stealing crypto materials, and in particular one of the new 4-rotor Enigma cipher devices.

His case is very compelling, and explains a number of things that historians have always puzzled over. I’ve always wondered about the task of the Essex Scottish Reg’t to suppress the harbour defences that fired into the harbour. It seemed unusual given the attack plan. O’Keefe has also discovered that Commander Ian Fleming was on a ship off-shore during the raid, which suggests there was something important going on.

The raid was ultimately a failure for the intelligence mission, and the outcome of the rest is known too well.

Now, back to the question of sacrifice. Soldiers, almost universally, are willing to undertake highly hazardous missions, even those with a certainty of death, if they understand the reason behind the action. One source of anger around Dieppe, for decades, has been the thought that this was a pointless raid that was badly mismanaged.

O’Keefe took his results and presented them to the few surviving Dieppe vets he could find (including the one remaining soldier from 30 IAU). One gentleman began to cry and said something like, I finally understand why my friends had to die – it wasn’t a wasted effort.

Interesting how the bringing of the reason for the raid, so long hidden, brings peace to those warriors. It says something significant about the character of the soldier.

Advertisements

Written by sameo416

April 30, 2014 at 2:31 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

The sleep that lasts one hundred years…

leave a comment »

In preparing for a talk on heritage, I came across the work of Metis singer Andrea Menard. The songs are more jazzy than I usually listen to, but I’ve found some real resonance in the lyrics circling around the question of identity.

The lyrics are hard to find on-line, and I’ll risk some copywrite exposure to list them here. These are all from the album, Simple Steps, but for the Halfbreed Blues, which is from The Velvet Devil.

The lyrics are off: http://andreamenard.bandcamp.com/album/simple-steps (and you can listen to the song too)

Ancestors is a mix of modern music with a sung First Nations chant that weaves in and out, and the singer picks up the phonetics of the chant. The refrain about being unable to find your way through all the stories is so true – which sometimes leaves you even more confused about what exactly is your story. The conclusion, “I feel like I know this land” rings so true.

Ancestors
by Andrea Menard, Robert Walsh, socan, July 2005

I’m looking for my ancestors, I heard they walked this way.
There are no signs on the road less traveled
They must be here someplace.
How do you mark a nomad’s path?
Or trail a puff of smoke?
Looking for my ancestors, I heard they walked this way.

Hey hi ya hey hi yaa ya, Hey hi ya hey hi yo,.
I’m looking for my ancestors, I heard they walked this way.

I’m looking for the Bois Brule, they traveled to and fro
You may have smelled the arubaboo, or the musky buffalo
Will I find them in the churches?
or find them in the schools?
Looking for my ancestors, I heard they lost their way.

Hey hi ya hey hi yaa ya, Hey hi ya hey hi yaa ya,
I’m looking for my ancestors, I heard they lost their way.

I can’t find my way through all these stories, There’s lies built on top of lies,
Where’s the truth of those came before me? What’s my story?

I can’t find my way through all these stories,
I’m looking for my ancestors, I heard they danced this way.
You may have seen a jigger’s step or heard a fiddle play.
I feel like I know this land
I feel like I’ve been here before
I think I’ve found my ancestors, I know they danced this way.

Hey hi yo, way hi yo, Wey hi yo, hey hi yaa ya,.
Hey hi ya hey hi yaa ya,. Wey hi yo, hey hi yaa ya,.

Hey hi ya hey hi yaa ya, Hey hi ya hey hi yaa ya,
Hey hi ya hey hi yaa ya,. Wey hi yo, hey hi yaa ya,.

I’m looking for my ancestors, I heard they walked this way.

100 years speaks to a Louis Riel comment – that the Metis would be in a time of darkness for 100 years, but then it would be the artists that would bring them back into the light. The song talks about a real tension in the modern Metis community – is political activism really the only place to be aboriginal today?

100 Years
by Andrea Menard, Robert Walsh, and Lee Kozak
Feb 2004

I, for one, have awakened
From the sleep that stole a hundred years
I’ve been given this heart and voice
A sense of history and choice
But I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do

I can’t abide political horseplay
My eyes glaze over in retreat
That’s not my field – I sing
I’m an actor who plays, and I sing..lalala

Listen, listen, listen, listen, listen, listen
I am rising
I am awakening.

Maybe my voice won’t move a mountain (If for a moment I could make you feel)
But what if it could move a single heart? (Then the role I play is real)
I hear Louis whispering my name (Wake up, my girl)
He fanned a spark into a flame
We won’t wait another hundred years, we will hear (on vous entant)

Listen, listen, listen, listen, listen, listen
We are rising,
We are awakening

What would you have me do?
Would you have me shout from the trees?
Or roll up my sleeves? Or beg on my hands and knees to ….

Listen, listen, listen, listen, listen, listen
We are rising,
We are awakening

I really like the blending of the English and French lyrics together, an emphasis on shared common history, as opposed to the things that separate us. Also an interesting reminder that there was huge support for Riel in Quebec at the time of his trial.

Métis Hands
written by Andrea Menard, Robert Walsh, Sept 2005

When the Voyageurs first came
ils n’attandaient pas d’etre peres
of a new nation
sur une vielle terre
(ils travallaient si fort)
ils etaient si fier
of their newfound family
dont je suis soeur, tu es frere

Look in these Métis eyes
hold these Métis hands’
we’re all held together, by love, by this land
we are family, we’re all family

When the winds of change were upon them
the ladies braced the wind
they opened up their hearts and homes
and took the strangers in
elles prevoyaient l’avenir
they saw their babies eyes
burntwood faces under prairies skies

Look in these Métis eyes
hold these Métis hands’
we’re all held together, by love by this land
we are family, we’re all family

Ecoutez mes enfants
l’histoire vous appartient
c’est ecrit dans la ceinture fleche
c’est ecrit dans vos mains
children listen
the future’s in your hands
Weave together our story strand by strand

Look in these Métis eyes
hold these Métis hands’
we’re all held together by love, by this land
we are family, we’re all family

I found this last one so appropriately talked about my own journey of discovery…and the freedom that comes with knowledge of who you are. It also wraps up the tension of being, for all appearances, purely European in looks.

The Halfbreed Blues
Written by Andrea Menard
Copyright 2000, Andrea Menard, SOCAN

I was born the privileged skin and my eyes are light, light brown.
You’d never know there’s Metis blood raging underground.
Let me tell you a story about a revelation.
It’s not the color of a nation that holds the nation’s pride.
It’s imagination, it’s imagination inside.

I was told that my skin would allow me to walk
On the street where the people are free.
So I left my soul in my loved ones hands
And I turned my back and walked away.

With my head held high in my high-heeled shoes,
I could yell and scream and make my noise.
Then one day I met a man, he looked like me
And he had soft beaded skins upon his feet.

Well he looked right through me with his weathered eyes
And he asked me if I was free.
He said, “Sister, sister”. He said, “Sister, don’t walk away.”
I said, “Brother, brother”. I said, “Brother, don’t bother me today.”

Well, he looked right through with those weathered eyes
And he asked again if I was free.
Damn rights I’m free.
Of course I’m free.
Oh yeah I’m free.
I think I’m free.
I hope I’m free.
Oh, please, let me be free.

Finally, also from Simple Steps, just a snip from Children of the Rainbow/Red River Jig.  I love the emphasis on the common linkages between us, in the end we’re all purely mixed up…and I grew up fishing and exploring the Red River.

Children of the Rainbow 
by Andrea Menard, Robert Walsh, socan, June 2001 

Red River runs like blood through this land 
She hides her secrets deep in the sand 
Coursing through history, the stories she could tell 
Our babies, our battles, she knows us well 

Red River knows we are one 
No one above or below 
Mixed bloods, pure bloods, we’re purely mixed up 
We are children of the rainbow 

Written by sameo416

April 27, 2014 at 4:15 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Urbane Adventurer: Amiskwacî

thoughts of an urban Métis scholar (and sometimes a Mouthy Michif, PhD)

Joshua 1:9

Reflection on life as a person of faith.

Engineering Ethics Blog

Reflection on life as a person of faith.

asimplefellow

Today, the Future and the Past all kinda rolled up in one.

istormnews

For Those Courageous in Standing for Truth

âpihtawikosisân

Law, language, life: A Plains Cree speaking Métis woman in Montreal

Malcolm Guite

Blog for poet and singer-songwriter Malcolm Guite

"As I mused, the fire burned"

Reflection on life as a person of faith.