You don’t need to follow U.S. politics to observe divisiveness and polarization. Just head down to Vernon city hall.
On Monday, council received a fairly basic request from the Royal Canadian Legion to install a poppy crosswalk as a way of honouring our veterans. It should have simply been a rubber stamp, but that was until the debate started.
“I know some people will wonder how I can reconcile voting for a poppy crosswalk when I voted against a rainbow crosswalk, so I’m going to explain it. My concerns with a rainbow crosswalk were, it is divisive, it emphasizes differences rather than inclusiveness and municipal government has no business getting involved in the culture wars. None of those conditions apply to this (poppy) walkway,” said Coun. Scott Anderson in a prepared statement.
“But here’s the real reason I’m going to vote for the poppy walkway. This crosswalk is not to celebrate people because of who they are, but to honour our veterans because of the heroic thing they did. It is to honour their actions, not their identity.”
Anderson is entitled to his opinion, but I would counter that when we honour our veterans, and those who died on foreign soil, we are recognizing their identity. They were men and women from all walks of life who found the courage to rise above adversity. In my own family, we talk about the characteristics of two great-uncles who fought at Vimy and the Somme and never returned to the Okanagan. We speak of my grandpa who came back from the Second World War but never forgot what he saw. You can’t separate the individual from their actions — it is something within them.
Anderson’s argument for the poppy crosswalk would have been a lot stronger had it not been mixed in with the politics of the rainbow. A majority of council agreed to a multi-coloured crosswalk last year, and that ship has sailed. It’s time to move on.
But Anderson wasn’t the only one driving debate Monday.
In a shocking move, Coun. Catherine Lord voted against the poppy crosswalk, insisting the rainbow crossing is sufficient.
“The colours represent solidarity for everyone. It’s an all inclusive crosswalk. We just need one that accepts everyone,” said Lord.
She then went on to say that, “I don’t want to identify one group and not everyone.”
Lord is also entitled to her opinion, but to suggest our veterans are simply just a group is unfortunate. These are men and women who put their lives on the line so we can have the freedoms we enjoy today. Because of them, Lord has been able to represent her community. Because of them, residents, no matter their gender, orientation, religion or background, are able to be who they are.
Lord attends Remembrance Day ceremonies and yet that is an event that pays specific tribute to our veterans and no one else.
It’s sad that what should be wonderful additions to the community have become mired in such rigid attitudes. There is room for both rainbow and poppy crosswalks downtown and the philosophies behind them are extremely compatible.
Hopefully Lord and Anderson will realize that our elected officials have a responsibility to tackle the so-called culture wars. As Coun. Juliette Cunningham so wisely said, “I don’t want to get into a game of pitting one group against another. That’s a dangerous game.”