Time and Tide

Collage of My Lifetime

Creating the image above was a task which triggered a lot of memories for me. Needless to say some were less than happy  but the sad memories also  elicited happier ones as I recalled the time as well as the event which was depicted in the image. The thought of the people who were a part of my life at that particular point in time brought smiles and at times even a tear or two  as I again relived different periods in my life.  As each image was added to the collage it also made me realize I've been around a heck of a lot  longer than I like to admit ! <s>

 I began this journey as a very little girl whose Daddy was  a  long  distance away from his family fighting an enemy in something Mommy called World War Two.  My first real memory of that time is Mommy talking to the milkman on the front porch one morning about something called D Day which had just happened. He had been gone a long time - over three and a half years in fact - and she missed him very much. In fact he had been gone so long he had not even seen my sister who was born several months after he went overseas. The memory that brings to mind is  how my baby sister was so afraid of men. Living with only Mommy and my brother and I she had no occasion to spend much time in the company of men and definitely did not like  those weird creatures !  Except for Grandpa of course ... he didn't count. Do you have any idea how loud a wee little  girl can holler if a  strange man tries to pick her up ? I do. And I can tell you it's LOUD ! 

When Daddy was coming home we spent a great deal of time teaching her how to greet him on his arrival. We showed her pictures  of Daddy in uniform and we talked about him a lot. My brother and I remembered him because Mommy had us write to him all the time  ( and I do mean ALL the time... she wrote to him every single day of that three and a half years) and she would include our letters with hers. But in truth we didn't really remember what he looked like because three and a half years is a very long time to children as young as we were.

The day he arrived home  our sweet wee sister followed our example  when Daddy picked her up and gave him a big hug and kiss  just as we had taught her to do and then immediately turned and said " Mommy I kissed him .. now .. can I please get down ? " ...  with her lower lip quivering and her eyes filled with tears. Bless her little heart.. she was terrified !

 The Korean War doesn't bring any significant memory to mind. I suppose because by that time I was so involved with my own life as a young  teenager that I wasn't paying much attention to anything which didn't centre around me and  the usual drama which accompanies those years. Self involvement  does tend to  dominate if memory serves me correctly. 

 I do however remember every heart breaking detail of November 22nd 1963 and the days which followed. I was a very young mother  filled with idealism and hope for  the future who was by now very much interested in politics. Allen Drury's "Advise and Consent " began the expansion of that interest to the political arena of our neighbour to the south and John  F. Kennedy cemented that interest into a full blown  passion of mine which has proven to be life long.

To so many of my generation  this President of the United States spoke a language we understood. The optimism and hope for a better world we saw in this man came at a time when our awareness of injustice and the suffering of others was becoming  a very real part of our consciousness. Our innocence died that day. For those next several days  time seemed to come to a complete stop as we sat in stunned horror watching the events unfold. The image of  that little boy saluting his father's coffin broke my heart.

 The next several years were a nightmare in so many ways. The assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy. Again, hope had been obliterated. Again, we helplessly stood by as we witnessed the brutality around us and the injustice in our world. Vietnam was an abomination we watched in our living rooms as it destroyed so many  young people. Those who fought and died, those who were maimed both physically and mentally, and those who would  live with the knowledge they made choices in good conscience which made many call them cowards, all saw their lives destroyed.  The polarization of the youth of the day would cripple so many for years to come. Chicago and Kent State. All events which fostered a cynicism in a society already reeling from  the events of the decade which would have lasting repercussions in the years to come.

As I was working on this image  it struck me  that so much of our  lives have been affected by war  throughout my life. Is it it any wonder that I abhor even the word ? Old men declare wars and youngsters die. And nothing changes. When will we ever learn ? Hatred and killing is not  and has not ever been the answer. They say that  man is civilized and better than the animals but we kill our young and those whose beliefs differ from ours. How do we justify  that ? 

The next few decades saw an emergence of indifference and hopelessness in the  younger generations where escape from reality became the answer and our world grew  ever smaller as space travel and global awareness via satellite made other continents only a few hours away.  We witnessed man's inhumanity to man on a broad scale but by now we had been insulated by a numbness that had permeated our beings as  we grew older and the idealism had been almost erased. Not quite, but almost. There were those who emerged  through the years who did bring hope that perhaps  there was still a chance for a better world. Could we, or would we, perhaps finally listen ? After all, we had a pretty comfortable existence. Why rock the boat. Life was good for us. We were not facing the  hardship or  tragedy we saw on our TV screens from around the world. We had become the epitome of a 'ME'  First  Society.

 In Canada we saw Pierre Elliot Trudeau emerge as a man in whom we could trust. His beliefs mirrored ours to a large degree but  there were those of the old way of thinking who  didn't like what he had to say and although he did much  for our  country there was division as well. Only in his passing did he truly receive the acclaim from his countrymen that  this good man deserved.

 Princess Diana embracing an Aids patient without hesitation or revulsion at a time when  this scourge was first  rampant and largely ignored by those who should have been doing everything possible to  search for an answer to it's continuing spread around the world. Again a ray of hope that goodness and compassion still existed. Her death at such a young age was felt world wide. She was young, she made mistakes, but she genuinely did try to do her part  to make this world a better place.

 John F. Kennedy Jr ... the little boy who won everyone's heart so long ago with that heart breaking salute. His death was particularly poignant as it seemed to close a door which had been ajar for such a long time. Perhaps the day would come when he would grow and  emerge as his father's standard bearer ? That may have been a wishful  grasp at a past of innocence but now that  possibility was gone as well.

And then ... the world exploded.  Or so it seemed. September 11 2001. No event I can recall has so affected the world. Not even World War Two and the Holocaust. Of course television didn't exist in 1939 so the insulation was intact and it wasn't on our continent but in some far away place many days travel away. This time it was right here. Horrific and terrifying. Grief and anger  abounded as we witnessed this abomination. We all know  how it has affected our world since that day ! Perspective went out the window as the anger and  unbearable sorrow  overwhelmed everyone. The repercussions  of that day reverberate still. Justifiably  those most affected demanded  retaliation. The terrorists who planned and carried out these heinous acts were of course dead but those who had financed and plotted to attack the USA were still free to plan more carnage. 

 Certainly terrorism must be stopped and those responsible for it's proliferation brought to justice. And so the War on Terror began with unanimity and world wide support.  Where it will end is anyone's guess.  The first real response was the War in Afghanistan which is in fact still ongoing. Bin Laden is still free  and plotting further carnage and Al-Qaeda  is regrouping after being decimated in Afghanistan. The cost to Canada from the war in Afghanistan is to date  four dead servicemen, our first in more than fifty years, in addition to several wounded Canadian soldiers.  Watching their comrades carrying those four coffins  bearing  the bodies of our gallant young men from the plane and home onto Canadian soil was a day which  I will not soon forget. The innocence may be but a memory but the tears still flow as easily.

Unfortunately  Freedom and Liberty have been compromised as governments react to the threat which is now with us daily. The North American continent is no longer protected by two oceans and far from the conflict. How we handle the reality of being the target is and will be very telling about our much vaunted love of freedom. Is the price of victory to be freedom itself ? Perhaps that  will be the most significant tragedy of all  to come from 9 -11.

 The next target was one which came from an unfinished Gulf War. Perhaps 9 -11 provided the impetus and the approbation of the American people but I still question the motives of those  who are in a position of power and chose this arena. Saddam Hussein  was a tyrant who had in the past attacked neighbouring countries, was known to have had  weapons of mass destruction, and was the target of many UN resolutions and weapons inspections since the Gulf War of  1991, but was he in league with Bin Laden  and Al Qaeda?  He had not attacked anyone since  the Gulf War more than twelve years ago nor had he  used the much talked about weapons of mass destruction since the 1980's. Was it only coincidence that the current President of the United States and  most of his cabinet  and advisors were  respectively the son and  members of the administration  of the man who was President in 1991 ? Did 9 -11 provide a convenient excuse for them to finish a war they had  every intention of waging  from the day they regained power  ? An excuse guaranteed to  garner the approval of the majority of  the American people  who had no taste for war in the aftermath of Vietnam?

 There were massive protests world wide including in  the US and Great Britain against this Iraq War on a scale never before seen but  those in power and in control of the decision making paid them no heed. The ultimate cost to Britain's Prime Minister for his decisions and support of the US position  is yet to be tallied. A good man and an excellent Prime Minister but one who may find regrettably that the cost to him is his career. One more  very real tragedy to add to the ever growing list.

The first Gulf War had won the support of the UN and many countries around the world  had rallied to join a coalition to force Saddam to retreat from his invasion of Kuwait. In this new war this would not be the case. The decision to again wage war with Iraq saw the United States and Great Britain with few allies and without United Nations sanction. Countries which had historically been  unquestioned allies  have been alienated and ostracized and international relations are at an all time low. The ultimate cost  to the credibility of the United Nations remains unknown. A union of nations world-wide founded after the Second World War to safeguard the world from war  may  very well end up being  added to the growing  list of  victims of 9 -11.

 Shock and Awe  was  the label given to the planned bomb attacks. Shocking ... most definitely. Awesome ? I think not. The war was  one sided  as the US  is  of course the most powerful nation on earth and  a declaration was made by the President of the United States several months ago  that  the mission had been accomplished. Now, months later, young American soldiers are still dying every day, Saddam Hussein is still at large  and Iraq is in the midst of what can only be called a  Guerilla War. The Americans are seen as occupiers of an Arab country not the liberators who would supposedly be welcomed with open arms and  there is no end in sight. The weapons of mass destruction claimed to be the main reason for immediate action are still to be found. Another Vietnam in the making ...  Dear God, I pray I am wrong.

It seems as if the list of  casualties from 9 - 11 will never end. Have the terrorists won after all ? If our way of life and our values and principles as defined by those who wrote the charters on which our countries were founded so many years ago are discarded because the threat this time is imminent and close at hand we will have abandoned everything  of value in our democratic and freedom loving countries which  so many have died to protect throughout my lifetime.

 I started this collage journey of my lifetime as a little girl and find myself now so many years later still seeing those who would claim to want only peace, in the name of freedom  choosing war as the answer, and still sending  more youngsters to do the dying. Will we never learn ? Or will we only learn  when it is too late for everyone ?

 There simply has to be a better way ! No child anywhere should  ever  again have to face the horror of war regardless of race, religion, or political philosophy. And most assuredly  not because of a lust for power by a cabal of zealots who  would wilfully destroy all of us 'for our own good' just because they have the power and might to do so.

Dear God , please help us all  and grant the  wisdom and courage needed to  those in a position to overcome this threat to our  very much taken for granted freedom.

" Man is not free unless government is limited. There's a clear cause and effect here that is as neat and predictable as a law of physics: As government expands, liberty contracts."

 - Ronald Reagan, President of The United States,
farewell address, Jan. 11, 1989 
 
 

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My sincere thanks to Margi Harrell for  the use of this superb midi
 You will find several of this very talented pianist's CD's available  for sale on her site.
 

August 9 2003