Hump Day: Debate over holiday decorations, respect for veterans is without merit

Hump DayHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2014
Moncton Times & Transcript

I don’t understand why people get sidetracked by tiny issues when there are so many bigger things to be worried about. I’ve written about this before, but the ludicrous “Christmas decorations are disrespectful to veterans” argument got extra attention this year after former Dragons’ Den star Brett Wilson – a well-known supporter of the military – decided to take on retailers on the issue.

By all accounts, Mr. Wilson is a good person. He’s known to be generous and giving of his time and money. On Nov. 2, he posted a message to Twitter which read in part: “Reminder to retailers – until November 12th – don’t even think about #XmasDecorations.” A CBC headline on the issue suggested that decorations before Remembrance Day showed disrespect toward veterans. Furthermore, he was quoted as saying, “It’s a source of frustration, particularly to some of the veterans that I know who feel that they’re being kinda swept aside in the commercialization of Christmas.”

As Colonel Potter used to say on M*A*S*H, “Moose muffins!” The argument that Christmas decorations in a retail setting are disrespectful to veterans is silly. It suggests society can’t chew gum and walk at the same time.

Canada has a new generation of veterans and fallen soldiers from our involvement in Afghanistan. More recently, two members of our military have been killed by homegrown radicals right here on Canadian soil. Now, as Canada sees mounting pressure for it to become further involved in the efforts to defeat ISIS, are we on the verge of another wave of casualties, physical injuries and veterans suffering from the tragedy of post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD)?

Add to that: cuts by the federal government to offices of Veterans Affairs Canada, forcing many veterans – depending on where they live – to find assistance on the telephone rather than in person. I wonder how many veterans have been caught in the hell that is any automated telephone system? ‘Press 1 if you fought for our country and are now suffering from PTSD and having suicidal thoughts.’ (Presses 1.) ‘Thank you for your call, but no one is available to talk to you right now. Have fun with that. Bye.’

dragons den
Brett Wilson, far right, was a cast member of CBC’s popular Dragons’ Den from 2008 to 2011.

Obviously I exaggerate, however I believe Canada’s military and the veterans who fought and continue to fight to protect us deserve a bit more than an overly simplistic campaign by someone of great privilege against retailers who prepare for the biggest shopping season of the year before Remembrance Day.

Mr. Wilson is wasting his power and influence on this issue. There’s no way he or anyone else can convince me that the biggest fish to fry when it comes to problems affecting veterans in 2014 is the fact that you might be hearing Jingle Bells in the background when you’re pinning on your poppy in the lead-up to Veterans’ Week.

What about budget cuts? What about PTSD sufferers who can’t get the treatment they need? Now that’s disrespect, Mr. Wilson – not a Christmas tree, twinkling lights or a poster announcing a sale in a store.

The sad part about all this is that Mr. Wilson has put small retailers on the defensive. With the holiday season being the busiest time of the year for sales, retailers have to do what they can to compete against the big box stores and foreign giants with millions to put behind holiday advertising campaigns. I find it preposterous that a small local bookstore that tries to spark sales before Remembrance Day would be branded by Mr. Wilson as disrespectful toward veterans. First, it’s not true. Second, who appointed Mr. Wilson judge and jury to society on this issue?

Mr. Wilson should be using his power and influence to rail against budget cuts. He should be leading rallies. He should be meeting with politicians – both in government and in opposition – to lobby for more services to veterans.Perhaps he is already doing this. If so, good!

If we’re out hunting moose, i.e. the big issues here – budget cuts, treatment for our injured veterans, PTSD, etc. – then why are we chasing rabbit tracks in the snow and getting obsessed with a bit of glitter and holiday music in the background while we’re getting our poppy? The early Christmas shopping season and Remembrance Day overlap. They will always share some space for a few weeks. Build a bridge and get over it!

We shouldn’t jump to false conclusions that a retailer trying to make a profit is disrespectful of our heroes because of a few baubles in a window. Many of those businesses also support the poppy campaign. Stop making false enemies out of them.

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