24 March 2009

The Punchline.

A minor kerfuffle seems to have erupted in Canada over the weekend due to some remarks made by some American Comedians on a show called 'redeye' about Canada and the Canadian military. The remarks were made on March 17th, but as the show is not carried in Canada no one up here really knew about it until segments of the show were posted on Youtube.

The inspiration for the comedians and their commentary, jokes or what you will were a statement issued by the head of the Canadian military which said that the Afghanistan mission has so depleted our military resources that, after our pullout of Afghanistan in 2011 we will be unable to perform similar missions for at least a year. For this the panelists on the show took shots at Canada for five minutes. Among their witticisms:

"I wasn't aware that Canada had troops in Afghanistan."

"Isn't this the perfect time to invade this ridiculous country? They have no army!"

"(Canadian military) wanted to take a breather to do some yoga, paint landscapes, run on the beach in gorgeous white capri pants."

Hilarious. In order: Canada has been in charge of the international mission in Afghanistan. To date we have lost 116 troops, good people all, the kind our country can ill spare, all of whom died in a war that began when one of our allies was attacked. What has made the reaction on this side of the border even more bitter, the day these remarks were made another four of our men died. This comment is simply utter ignorance and as such was more demeaning to man who said it, rather than to Canada or the Canadian military. A man who can be so blindly uninformed about a topic he is supposed to discuss, even as a comedian, is not worth listening to, even as a comedian.

Second: actually, that would be the perfect time to invade.

Third: Hardly, but the truth is possibly sadder and more pathetic. Our military has been grossly underfunded for decades, in the name of funding the Canadian welfare state. The average Canadian would like to see funding increase for the military, but at the same time they do not want to lose the social benefits. It's a rather literal manifestation of the old 'guns and butter' theory. Namely, a country which produces two products- guns and butter- will eventually reach a point where they can only increase production of one by decreasing production of the other. In the States there was a point where it seemed cows were going to start making howitzers. Up here, we went to the opposite absurdity, and our troops may have to start carving their weapons out of cheese. Canada cannot have it both ways, and it is time we admitted it.

The soldiers deployed in Afghanistan do not have enough equipment. Much of the equipment they do have is old, and no one is ponying up the money to replace it. Even when our vehicles and equipment aren't being blown up, the rough Afghanistan terrain is beating the heck out of them, and the vehicles are now in need of an overhaul, or are simply useless. Still our troops go on, doing the best with what they have, serving our country with honour and distinction. Our political leaders continue to ask the men to do more with less, and somehow they deliver. The general who told Ottawa the military needs a year off was trying to remind the politicians that this is not a state of affairs that can go on indefinitely.

The comedian apologized, stating he had no intention of insulting the honour of our soldiers. But for the line about capri pants, I may agree with him. However, I confess myself to be weary of reading about my beloved homeland in American news, or on the blogs, or anywhere, really. For the most part we are ignored, and I prefer that, because it seems the only time Canada is mentioned to the south is as a punchline.

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