Military

Liberalogy: The genealogy of my freedoms – Abu-Isa Webb

For one weekend every year, the country pays its respects to the military in a series of highly scripted and obscure gestures and platitudes that are found almost nowhere else in our society.

One of the mantras of this ritual is “died for our freedom”

Now I get it. This is in no way whatsoever meant to be literal or even figurative in the more obvious sense. For those of us not completely awash in Christian iconography it slips notice, but the whole thing is a sacrificial lamb, scapegoat, Jesus trade. The men died and in return they were given paradise and we were given free choice as a theological concept. It’s not that they died for our freedom of expression, it’s just a thinly veiled Christian metaphor, hence the ritual aspect of it. Including non-Christians is just part of the whole “he died for all humanity” thing.

So yeah, I get it, my whole analysis here is not going to go anywhere because it assumes a fundamental misunderstanding of the premise “they died for our freedoms.” So in a strict sense the “Liberalogy” ends there. The “freedom” that is implied in the mantra is the freedom to choose Jesus, which is the only correct choice. The historiography goes down a very interesting path along divine rights of kings and Holy Roman Empires and such all the way back to the early Church martyrs. It’s neat, but it’s not what initially interested me. Instead, I want to look at the history of the actual freedoms in my democratic society that I actually enjoy came from.

First off, we need to identify those things. Now in this sense we hit another sort of wall. Freedoms are not really things we like or enjoy. They are a product of someone else not inhibiting us. So it’s easy to say I enjoy freedom of movement. But how did that come about?

Freedom of Movement

Humans can naturally move. White Canadians were never restricted from moving. So at what point could you say that freedom of movement was won for me? As a white male, King Alfred was the first to guarantee my right to move unmolested through the Kingdom that would eventually sire the Canadian Common Law. So sure, King Alfred. I’m OK with giving him credit for that, he’s pretty rad and we haven’t cancelled him yet.

But did veterans ensure my free movement? White Americans could always move freely, even into foreign territory without consent of the locals, and be backed up by the American military. So my White American Rebel family and my White Loyalist family both earned the right to freedom of movement, and so paradoxically neither did. Remember, freedom requires that someone else is preventing you from doing something. Neither wanted to take away the freedom of movement of White settlers. In fact, had they not had a war at all, and all of North America was the USA or colonial Britain, my freedom of movement would be even greater, because then I could freely move across the Southern border, which I can’t do now.

So does that mean in the 7 years war that the British fighting the French guaranteed my freedom of movement through all of Canada, which I currently enjoy? Did those veterans die for my freedom? Well, that’s assuming Quebec would restrict my freedom of movement had it remained independent, which is not guaranteed. There are many ways aside from war to win permeable border agreements with foreign nations. Aside from that, we have the counter-point that the later veterans of the War of 1812 foolishly divided up my continent and inconvenienced me by preventing my freedom of movement.

So for the purposes of constructing my Liberalogy, I will concede that the veterans of the Seven Years War were the forefathers to my freedom to move through Quebec (a highly recommended luxury I suggest you take advantage of if you also have it).

But that’s just Quebec. I was born in Alberta. There’s a whole lot of Canada to get through before you get to Quebec.

And for that, everything from Upper Canada to the Rockies, I do not have veterans to thank. Again, I earn a freedom, it is assumed, when a restriction on that freedom is lifted. The numbered treaties were a symbolic lifting of restriction of movement in Western Canada, so it could be said that the treaty negotiators won that freedom. But before the treaties were signed, there were numerous Europeans traversing the West to explore, trade, and even settle. While the treaty commissioners might have been considered the dejure parents of my freedom of movement, the defacto ability of humans to move around was really all it took. I like to think that I’m the kind of person that would be benign enough to have been granted some measure of free movement before the treaties were signed, but it was not guaranteed, so we’ll give a reluctant lineage to the treaty commissioners.

This is where a key point comes up. The treaties were the basis for a guarantee of my free movement in Canada, but they were also the basis for the restriction of the free movement of other Canadians, the indigenous people native to the land. Unfortunately, the truth is that the treaty commissioners are parents to my free movement, but they are antagonists to the free movement of ALL CANADIANS. It’s sorta like when you find out one of your ancestors raped a bunch of children to death (which is what happened in the case White treatment of Indigenous people in Western Canada). It’s gotta go in the genealogy, but it’s not a nice lesson.

Last on the list is the East Coast, which I also highly recommend. Much of the East Coast was negotiated in agreements that were more fair at the time, so cudos goes to the people (including the indigenous people) who negotiated the terms of free movement for White people in the East Coast without much bloodshed. There was a lot of bloodshed, but not much of it was over the freedom of movement of White men in the region.

So King Alfred grants free movement to free men. Indigenous and European leaders forge the Friendship Treaties to give me access the the East Coast. Some guys in the 7 years war grant free movement through Quebec. The treaty commissioners guarantee legal free movement through the rest of Canada that I have enjoyed. That is the lineage of my free movement. We’ve got one group of veterans a very long time ago who contributed to my freedom of movement, countered in 1812 by another group that severely hindered it, and the first group probably could have gotten away with a treaty -if not at the time, then eventually.

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