Country is in your debt, Firefighter Wilson

By CHARLES ADLER, QMI Agency

Last Updated: December 17, 2010 10:33am

Since this is our last visit in this space before 2011, I wanted to recognize the single most important event of 2010 that never got the headlines it so richly deserved.

Citizens of Adler Nation got to know it as the Firefighter Wilson story and, while it didn’t happen on Christmas Day, it has Christmas Miracle written all over it.

Sgt. Rob Cullen of York Regional Police was just answering the call of duty one day in a town about an hour’s drive north of Toronto. Something happened that day that moved him to write a different kind of police report, in an e-mail to our national radio show.

“Last night, while working in my usual role as a police platoon sergeant, we were called to a VSA — vital signs absent — in the basement apartment of a house just north of Keswick.

“The victim was 78. A retired firefighter. His small basement apartment was tidy. Upon the walls were tonnes of framed photos.

“He was very well read. History books lined his bookshelves. His specialty was the Avro Arrow.

“He was a huge supporter of our troops. An article from the Toronto Sun about the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion sat on his desk. Pictures of cops and firefighters were found here and there.

“But he had no next of kin. I had no one to visit, no one to see. I left the detectives and constable to await the coroner, and have the body removed to its final rest.

“As I walked down the driveway, the constable followed me and said: ‘Sarge, they’re gonna carry this guy out in a plastic bag. All the neighbours are watching. He was a firefighter for 30 years. He’s got no one … we can’t let him go like that.

“‘Can you find us a Canadian flag, so that when they take him out of the house, we can lay it on the gurney when they roll him to the hearse?’

“It was 7:30 on a Tuesday night. Where to find a flag? The Dollar Store. Sure enough, they had one. I bought the flag, and took it back to the scene.

“Firefighter Robert Wilson was brought up from his apartment. Before he left the door, the flag was draped across him, to honour the life of a man who was willing to give it at any time.

“The neighbours watched in silent respect. The people from the funeral home tucked the flag secure and removed it with him. I expect it will be buried with him, too.

“For a short time, he wasn’t alone. He was a firefighter, a hero. He was a Canadian. All it took was a flag to show it.

“Maybe it’s time we find our heroes before their only honour comes from a dollar store.”

Sgt. Cullen, our listeners and readers everywhere want to thank you and your crew for your service to York Region, and indeed to the country. And I’d like to think that somewhere up there Firefighter Wilson feels for the first time in a very long time, that he is not alone.

Merry Christmas to you Firefighter Wilson. A country thanks you, and walks with you. This is Canada and you’ll never walk alone.

We’re all Canadian

LETTER FROM LISTENER:

 

Hi Charles,

I have a confession. I think I’m a snob. Or, at least I was a snob until last week.

I’ve lived my whole life in a big city in Eastern Canada. I’ve traveled a lot, but not within my own country. And, I will admit, I’ve lived a pretty self-absorbed, urban lifestyle. I thought I was open-minded, but I’ve totally been living my life believing these stupid stereotypes about Westerners and people from rural Canada.

I know this sounds horrible, but I used to think that city people were just smarter, faster and way cooler. People from the country were nice, but we had nothing in common. We didn’t like the same food, wear the same clothes or listen to the same music. So I just wrote them off, without even trying to get to know them. I’m ashamed of my attitude, but I didn’t even realize I was doing it.

I recently came back from a volunteer trip to South America. I was on a team of 35 Canadians – all of them from rural Ontario and British Columbia. I went into the trip thinking we wouldn’t have anything in common. Me being from a big city, them being from small towns. But after the first night, we didn’t care where we came from. We talked about our lives, our families, our jobs, our friends, our adventures, our health and our future. We weren’t different. We were the same. We all wanted to live long and happy lives. We all wanted to make a difference. We all wanted our families to know we were safe and sound. Some of us talked about our love lives. Some of us talked about our travels. Some of us talked about battling cancer.

And the one thing that really tied us together was the fact that we were all Canadians. And, it didn’t matter what part of Canada we were from. We were just happy to be together. And, we were proud of what we were doing.

I’ve had a lot of time to think about my latest adventure. I thought this trip was going to change my view of South America. I didn’t realize it was going to change my view of Canada.

So let’s stop this Us VS Them mentality. This West VS East rivalry. Rural VS Urban. Because when it comes down to it – we’re all the same. We're all Canadian.

Hail Mary and the Junk Man

By Charles Adler, with help from Charles Krauthammer

First, a little political football — Warren Kinsella, the former Liberal strategist is saying publicly what every Liberal activist is saying privately. They understand that while the country is not having a love affair with Stephen Harper (never did, never will), they are not interested in disposing of him like a Tim Horton's coffee cup. To use Kinsella's words, “They are not hell bent on getting rid of him.” The entire thrust of Liberal strategy (if you can call it that) in the last two years has been sooner or later Canadians will wake up to how scary Stephen Harper is. It hasn't happened. He's about as scary as your local loans officer at the bank. You may not love him. He may make you go through a whole lot of hoops to get your dough. But ultimately you trust him and you keep going back to the bank. You can take this to the bank, folks.

It's been nearly five years since Stephen Harper beat Paul Martin and there is no movement to bring Paul Martin back on the premise. The public is not having buyer's remorse. Oh Gosh Darn, we made the wrong decision. Sorry Paul, please come back. It's not happening. There is no move to resurrect Stephane Dion who lost to Stephen Harper. Please, please si vous plait Monsieur Dion. Please come back. Sorry. Not happening. By this time next year, the same will be said about the next former leader of the Liberal party Michael Ignatieff. Kinsella's former team mate Ian Davey, the son of the former Liberal rainmaker Keith Davey, the architect of many Liberal victories during their halcyon days, said in the National Post on Monday, “Liberals have to learn from Rob Ford how to win elections, have to focus on economic competence, which is to say cut the bloated spending programs.” The advice is to stop muddying the message of economic competence by talking about things like the home care program that Liberals were unwrapping earlier in the year. That's when they were talking about the government sending you cheques to take care of ailing Grandma and Grandpa, a warm and fuzzy spending program that appeals to the Liberal base. In any other time, maybe a winning idea. Not this time. To quote Ignatieff's former chief of staff, "In a time when Canadians know money is tight, Liberals would be far wiser to be focusing on a message of change. Just ask Rob Ford."

When Michael Ignatieff's former top adviser is now on the sidelines with nothing to lose by telling the truth and says the only way for Liberals to win is to impersonate Conservatives like Rob Ford – that is a message louder than a Vuvuzela at a South African soccer game. That is a loud message – and it’s saying the Liberals have nothing in the kit except a disguise. If Ignatieff wants to wear a disguise next spring, if he wants to don a mask and pretend he is a Conservative, then it is now said by the best brains in Liberalism that he has a chance. You'll pardon me for having my mind on the Grey Cup, but the disguise play is a desperate Hail Mary throw. And most of the time, the team that is on its own twenty yard line with only ten seconds left on the clock, most of the time the Hail Mary that is thrown doesn't end up in the promised land. That Hail Mary doesn't go to Jerusalem. It goes right into the Hudson's Bay. Michael Ignatieff, if he is willing to put on the disguise and pretend to be more Catholic than the Pope, more Conservative than the Conservatives – well there’s a good chance he’ll become Polar Bear Food. 

***

Nobody I've seen writing about the Don't Touch My Junk airport security issue has been able to put it into the perfect political context like Charles Krauthammer, who in the Washington Post has delivered this gem:

Ah, the airport, where modern folk heroes are made. The airport, where that inspired flight attendant did what everyone who's ever been in the spam-in-a-can crush of a flying aluminum tube – where we collectively pretend that a clutch of peanuts is a meal and a seat cushion is a "flotation device" – has always dreamed of doing: pull the lever, blow the door, explode the chute, grab a beer, slide to the tarmac and walk through the gates to the sanity that lies beyond. Not since Rick and Louis disappeared into the Casablanca fog headed for the Free French garrison in Brazzaville has a stroll on the tarmac thrilled so many.

Who cares that the crazed steward got arrested, pleaded guilty to sundry charges, and probably was a rude, unpleasant SOB to begin with? Bonnie and Clyde were psychopaths, yet what child of the '60s did not fall in love with Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty?

And now three months later, the newest airport hero arrives. His genius was not innovation in getting out, but deconstructing the entire process of getting in. John Tyner, cleverly armed with an iPhone to give YouTube immortality to the encounter, took exception to the TSA guard about to give him the benefit of Homeland Security's newest brainstorm – the upgraded, full-palm, up the groin, all-body pat-down. In a stroke, the young man ascended to myth, or at least the next edition of Bartlett's, warning the agent not to "touch my junk."

Not quite the 18th-century elegance of "Don't Tread on Me," but the age of Twitter has a different cadence from the age of the musket. What the modern battle cry lacks in archaic charm, it makes up for in full-body syllabic punch.

Don't touch my junk is the anthem of the modern man, the Tea Party patriot, the late-life libertarian, the midterm election voter. Don't touch my junk, Obamacare – get out of my doctor's examining room, I'm wearing a paper-thin gown slit down the back. Don't touch my junk, Google – Street View is cool, but get off my street. Don't touch my junk, you airport security goon – my package belongs to no one but me, and do you really think I'm a Nigerian nut job preparing for my 72-virgin orgy by blowing my johnson to kingdom come?

In "Up in the Air," that ironic take on the cramped freneticism of airport life, George Clooney explains why he always follows Asians in the security line:

"They pack light, travel efficiently, and they got a thing for slip-on shoes, God love 'em."

"That's racist!"

"I'm like my mother. I stereotype. It's faster."

That riff is a crowd-pleaser because everyone knows that the entire apparatus of the security line is a national homage to political correctness. Nowhere do more people meekly acquiesce to more useless inconvenience and needless indignity for less purpose. Wizened seniors strain to untie their shoes; beltless salesmen struggle comically to hold up their pants; 3-year-olds scream while being searched insanely for explosives – when everyone, everyone, knows that none of these people is a threat to anyone.

The ultimate idiocy is the full-body screening of the pilot. The pilot doesn't need a bomb or box cutter to bring down a plane. All he has to do is drive it into the water, like the EgyptAir pilot who crashed his plane off Nantucket while intoning "I rely on God," killing all on board.

But we must not bring that up. We pretend that we go through this nonsense as a small price paid to ensure the safety of air travel. Rubbish. This has nothing to do with safety – 95 percent of these inspections, searches, shoe removals and pat-downs are ridiculously unnecessary. The only reason we continue to do this is that people are too cowed to even question the absurd taboo against profiling – when the profile of the airline attacker is narrow, concrete, uniquely definable and universally known. So instead of seeking out terrorists, we seek out tubes of gel in stroller pouches.

The junk man's revolt marks the point at which a docile public declares that it will tolerate only so much idiocy. Metal detector? Back-of-the-hand pat? Okay. We will swallow hard and pretend airline attackers are randomly distributed in the population.

But now you insist on a full-body scan, a fairly accurate representation of my naked image to be viewed by a total stranger? Or alternatively, the full-body pat-down, which, as the junk man correctly noted, would be sexual assault if performed by anyone else?

This time you have gone too far, Big Bro'. The sleeping giant awakes. Take my shoes, remove my belt, waste my time and try my patience. But don't touch my junk.

That's Charles Krauthammer and I'm Charles Adler. We don't break news. We break heads, educating without pain and tedium. We break hearts, giving grown men the license to cry. And, we break down the doors of political correctness.

When tedium breaks out, we break in like a burglar.

Email from Sgt. Rob Cullen

Hey Charles….

I'm glad you were able to use my letter in your piece to the PM. You are saying for so many what is on their minds. Let me give you my take on this, from a bit of historical perspective. At this point, the following is a personal opinion, not reflective of my professional life. It is the opinion of Rob, citizen of the Adler Nation.

My grand dad's family came to Canada from Germany, and settled in Walkerton, Ontario. They farmed, he learned how to butcher. In 1916, with war raging and Canadians being lost by the hundreds on an almost daily basis he joined the fight. But not for the Kaiser, not for his homeland of birth. He went to fight for CANADA. This German by heritage Canadian boy went to fight for the country that had given his family hope, peace, and livelihood. Notice there is no hyphenated German-Canadian description. He came HERE. He was CANADIAN of German birth. In August of 1918 he served with the 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles, and while on a mounted charge against dug in German positions, he was shot through the left shoulder. Only one of about a dozen from his squad to make it back to the lines. The difference between just another white cross in a small French cemetery, and my ability to write this to you is truly a matter of a few millimetres. After the war, he married and had several children, including my mother. She is now 87. She tells of how she didn't learn to speak English until she was about 5. They still only spoke German at home, and they had moved to Kitchener, where a vibrant Canadian community of German descendants thrived. (Previously, Kitchener was known as Berlin, but the name was changed by those living in the community to honour Lord Kitchener, whose leadership in the Great war was legendary).

What a crazy time!!! What crazy ideas!!  Come to Canada to make a better life. Bring your own culture and language. WORK THE LAND ! EARN A LIVING ! RAISE YOUR FAMILY TO BE THANKFUL FOR THEIR GOOD FORTUNE !  And when your country calls, answer.

My mom tells me how she can vividly remember the small scar of the front of his left shoulder, and the large scar on his back. He was shot going forward, face on INTO the enemy. He wasn't fighting for the enemy. I'm sure the idea of suing the government for his wounds would have been seen as traitorous. It would also have been the furthest thing from his mind.

In light of this example alone, I'm trying to find out how describing Omar Khadr and his family as Canadian is in any manner appropriate. Where did our standards change?

My dad volunteered for service in 1940, and served with the 12th Field Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery. He was an aspiring hockey player, and was playing for the Waterloo Siskins when he volunteered.

Living the Canadian dream on ice. A dream unfulfilled.

He fought through the hell that was D Day, and like many of our valiant men, came head on with Hitler's notorious 12th  SS Panzer Division. What made this enemy so dangerous? They had been trained, they had seen battle before, and many of them had been Hitler Youth. As teenagers they had bought into a skewed, prejudicial, evil ideology, presented to them as teens or even earlier, and had vowed to die for a radical extremist leader. They viewed anyone not of their kind as a lesser race. After the war, many said that they had been forced to join the Hitler Youth. It is, in this case, well established that many did join under threat of death or injury to their family members. But many joined in support of immoral ideas spawned by a charismatic maniac, and were following in their father's footsteps.

Omar Khadr is no different. We know he was following in his father's footsteps. There is no indication of his father forcing him to go. He glorifies that he has been in the presence of Bin-Laden. No doubt he was sold an ideology by his father, which was furthered in training and in battle against the western allies. Not Taliban??…then you are a lesser race. And you need to be killed. And he would have pledged to die for the cause. Are we seeing a similarity here?

The scenes of these motivated and dedicated teenage Nazi troops would repeat all through the Allied advance. How brutal for one of our soldiers to come upon the body of the soldier that tried to kill him, maybe killed his friends, and find him to be a kid. I am sure many still live with the pain, the memories. My dad was there, he saw.

But at the end of the war, my dad ended up at a place called Bergen-Belsen, and was able to view firsthand the nature of the lowest of human depravity. Those teenagers that had been the enemy were also the ones who were dedicated to carry on this horror. My dad could talk about the pain and terror of battle. He could talk about being mistakenly bombed by a low flying package of Lancaster bombers as his regiment and several others were trapped in an open quarry. He could talk about how they didn't find remains of many men, so total was the devastation. He could not, however, speak even a word of what he had seen at Bergen-Belsen. Maybe it took a bit out of the sting of having to kill those teenage Nazis, but caused him even greater pain about the dark potential of man. And nowhere have I ever heard these enemy youth referred to as "child soldiers".

History has identified them as they were.

Omar Khadr is coming back with his ideology intact, and he will no doubt continue to espouse his vitriole against the western world, and the country which gave he and his family OPPORTUNITY…and I would submit they have let this great opportunity slip by. Oh but he has another opportunity !!!   The opportunity to sue the government, the Canadian people!!  A chance to fire one more shot, throw one more litigious grenade at the same country who gave his family a chance for true freedom. And of all the opportunities presented to he and his family, this is the one he takes.

If his "pain" is worth ten million dollars, then our country will go bankrupt trying to pay our veterans what they are owed on even a diminished comparative scale.

But they won't sue. They are Canadians. They love their country.

They hate war, because they have seen it. They know the value of peace, because they have paid for it.

I say we let these learned and educated men make the determination on Omar Khadr.

On a side note Charles, if you ever need to get picked up at Pearson, let me know. Menzies Sport trac "Adrenaline Edition" just doesn't cut it. I'll pick you up in my truck…a MAN'S truck…a 1996 H1 Hummer. The Humvee with nice seats and a stereo. Not a girly H2.  By comparison, The Menzoid's truck is actually an "Estrogen Edition".  And no Mcd's…go for man food. Beer and wings at the police club!!

Lastly, if you happen to be watching Coaches Corner on Hockey Night tonite, there may be footage from my dad's regiment playing hockey at their training camp in Sussex N.B. in 1941. My dad is on there. He died in 1980, but just maybe tonight I get to brag, "Hey..I watched my dad playing hockey on Hockey Night in Canada." How cool is that ??

Keep in touch.

With thanks from a fan and proud citizen of the Adler Nation,

Rob

***

Video of Sgt. Rob Cullen's dad on Coach's Corner. This is the first time this hockey footage from 1941 has ever been publicly viewed.