It is a mystery to me why certain things catch metaphorical fire while others don't. Making the promotional rounds for my new book The [Un]documented Mark Steyn, I swung by The Steve Malzberg Show today for two quick segments. In the first, I talked about Obama's ultimatum to Congress to pass "comprehensive immigration reform" in the lame-duck session before all the newly elected chaps arrive in January. And I said that I thought it was constitutionally unseemly for the President to demand major transformative legislation from a bunch of representatives and senators who no longer enjoy the confidence of the people and are on their way out the door.
I would have thought that might have made for an interesting soundbite hither and yon. But in the second segment with Steve I made some entirely unexceptional remarks responding to Erin Burnett's drearily predictable reaction to Ben Stein's equally unexceptional remarks on race, and that's what seems to have tickled everybody's controversy meter. Here's what I said:
The reaction of CNN to what Ben Stein said to you is fascinating, because that is the characteristically stupid parameters in which we are allowed to talk about race. Eric Holder and everyone is always pawing for national conversations on race, by which they mean people like [CNN host] Erin Burnett get to beat up on anyone who actually says anything honest or truthful or refreshing or anything that does not prostrate itself before the pack of the usual grievance-mongers like the disgusting Al Sharpton and the disgusting Jesse Jackson.
We have a stupid political discourse in this country. And one of the reasons it's stupid is because we spend so much time on these phony racism conversations such as that held on CNN.
If you add up all the time Erin Burnett et al spend talking about "racism" and imagine that time freed up to talk about foreign policy or education or the national debt or anything other than just the same bloody boring pseudo-controversies about "racism"... All the conversations that will never be had, all the hours that have to be sacrificed in the cause of pretending it's still Selma, Alabama in 1964 now and unto the end of time. Al Sharpton can't even wrap his head around anything that doesn't fit into the same-old-same-old - hence, during the Ottawa War Memorial coverage a couple of weeks back, his inability even to get the name of Canada's capital right. He called it "Iowa". I suppose we should be grateful he didn't call Toronto "Tawana".
~Today was, according to where you happen to be, Veterans Day, Armistice Day or Remembrance Day . Here in the North Country, my youngest and his alto sax were playing in the town band - "The Star-Spangled Banner", "March of the Conquistador", all solid stuff. I was very proud of him until I saw how one English schoolboy spent his November 11th. To mark the centenary of the Great War, the Tower of London launched a project to plant a ceramic poppy in its former moat for each of the 888,246 servicemen from across the British Empire who died in the conflict. Today it fell to Harry Hayes to plant that 888,246th poppy:
After the final name was read out, young Harry, from the Reading Blue Coat School Combined Cadet Force, Berkshire, collected the last poppy from artist Paul Cummins.
He then walked towards the raised grass area where he planted the ceramic flower, completing the vibrant red swathe of the moving memorial.
When he joined the cadets this year, the teenager became the latest in a long line of men from his family who have served their country in a military capacity.
Harry's maternal great-great-great uncle, Private Patrick Kelly of the 1st Battalion, Irish Guards, was killed in action on September 27 1918, just weeks before the war's end.
As an old CCF cadet myself, I can't imagine anyone entrusting me with the responsibility Cadet Hayes had today. I saw the then incomplete "Blood Swept Lands" memorial when I was in London a few weeks ago. It is profoundly moving, and humbling, and anyone visiting the city should make time to see it.
~Laura Rosen Cohen spent the eleventh hour with the General Wingate Branch 256 of the Royal Canadian Legion. If you don't know who Orde Wingate was, you should: he was a brilliant (if personally eccentric) military commander during the Second World War, and a great friend to the Jews. (His website is not terribly user-friendly, but do persevere.) The ceremony in Toronto was as you'd expect - "O Canada", "God Save The Queen", "The Last Post" - but this part of Laura's report saddened me and would have dismayed Wingate:
The children at the Jewish day school had just finished their own school ceremony.
Unfortunately, but understandably there were security concerns that prevented them from participating in the outdoor ceremony. Parents were apprehensive. So this makes me angry and sad as well. Jewish schoolchildren in Canada cannot participate in a public, outdoor ceremony to honour veterans because-well, don't we all know because why?
Every single child and every single staff member in that building had a poppy on. Every. Single. One.
"Don't we all know why?" asks Laura. Some do, some don't, and far too many, like Avi Benlolo, the head of Toronto's Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre, can't even bring themselves to say the word.
So much of Jewish life in Britain and Europe has now been forced indoors, out of sight, behind security fences. How depressing to see the same phenomenon taking root in Toronto. So Canadian schoolchildren who would have loved to participate in the Remembrance Day observances are unable to, while, elsewhere in Ontario, schoolchildren who are free to participate in the ceremonies have no interest in doing so:
The Greater Essex County District School Board in Ontario circulated an e-mail to the 75 schools it runs in places like Windsor and Leamington. The memo says teachers should be prepared to exempt Muslim students from Remembrance Day.
"Some families may be reluctant to have their children attend your location municipality's ceremonies. Please note that meaningful alternate activities should be provided at the schools for those families who do not wish their children to participate in any Remembrance Day ceremonies."
In case you were wondering which families they might be referring to, the school board didn't say specifically but pointed teachers to two Muslim-themed websites, including the story about the first Muslim soldier in the Canadian Forces who wore a hijab, an Islamic head covering.
But Remembrance Day is a central part of Canada. It remembers our history, and the men and women who fought and died to keep us free. It is not a dark day, an embarrassing day, a racist day or a day of shame...
It's not a religious day, like Christmas. It's a day for everyone.
It's a disgrace that any family would object to it – especially an immigrant family who came here to benefit from our country. It would call into question the basis on which they applied for and were granted citizenship.
And even if some old bigot from a backwoods village in Pakistan or Somalia doesn't want to respect Canada, that's where our schools come in and teach those bigots' kids and grandkids what it means to be Canadian.
Good luck with that.
Oh, and yet more one-way multiculturalism - this time at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC:
Let this be a lesson to the world.
~Tomorrow, Wednesday, I'll be keeping my fortnightly date with Toronto's Number One morning man, John Oakley, live on AM640 at 8.30am Eastern. As for my new book, The [Un]documented Mark Steyn is currently tussling with Tina Fey on the New York Times bestseller charts. It's available in America from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million, not to mention Costco, and from Indigo-Chapters, Amazon and McNally-Robinson in Canada. Or, for instant gratification, get it in eBook - in Kindle, Kobo, Nook and iBooks. And, wherever you are on the planet, we're happy to ship you a personally autographed copy direct from the SteynOnline bookstore.