We must stand on guard for freedoms in times of war and peace

Published on November 11, 2017

November 9th and 11th are both dates that mean a lot to me every year. Like most Canadians, I take time to stop and remember our war dead and veterans on Remembrance Day, November 11th. A much smaller number of Canadians however mark November 9th, the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Both dates every year mark a time when we should remember the sacrifice of those who fought for the freedoms that we so often take for granted today.

Remembrance Day this year hits particularly close to home for many in Strathmore after the passing of George Freeman on November 6. George was a community leader, war hero, and like my maternal great-grandfather, a D-Day veteran.

The fight for freedom takes many forms, and varies greatly in importance, but all freedoms, no matter how small, are important when taken together.

Those we remember on November 11th fought and shed blood for our ‘big’ freedoms: freedom to life, of speech, of assembly, and of religion.

My father’s side of our family came from Germany in areas that were under Soviet occupation after the Second World War, and so the Berlin Wall stood as a particularly personal symbol of oppression for us.

While many died trying to flee communist East Germany, the Berlin Wall fell without firing a shot on November 9th, 1989. The will of people to live in freedom and unity after decades under fascism and then communism proved more powerful than the will of the Red Army and dictators to hang onto power.

The peaceful fall of the wall was a part of a chain reaction that saw communist dictatorships across Central and Eastern Europe fall with lightning speed, and in most cases, peacefully. Never in world history have so many people gone from slavery to freedom in such a short period of time, and with such minimal loss of life.

In Canada and Western nations today we face nothing like the threat to freedom that were faced during the Second World War or Cold War, but we do imperil our own freedoms in a piecemeal way.

Every time we pass laws banning something because it is offensive; every time we restrict some previously legal activity in the name of protecting people from themselves, every time we trade privacy for security, we lose a little freedom.

Most of the time these loses are small and seemingly trivial, and so little attention is paid to them, but over time and taken together, we become a more rigid, regulated and unhappy society.

Benjamin Franklin is often misquoted as saying in 1738, “Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.” He actually, said “Sell not virtue to purchase wealth, nor Liberty to purchase power,” but people must have thought that the first statement sounded better.

We should be grateful that today’s younger generations have not been called en masse to defend freedom as those of our fathers were, but we should not forget their sacrifice, and be ever watchful against trading it away, piece by piece.

Derek Fildebrandt
MLA for Strathmore-Brooks