I started watching X-Company on February 18, 2015. The World War II CBC drama "follows the stories of five highly skilled young recruits – Canadian, American and British – torn from their ordinary lives to train as agents in Camp X [,] an ultra-secret training facility on the shores of Lake Ontario.” The historical basis of Camp X, a little known fact from Canadian history, intrigued me from the get-go. It’s clear from the opening scenes that these young people would rather not be involved in espionnage. War and killing are abhorrent to them. They try to circumvent the ugliness. For example, Tom, an advertising professional, will try to talk himself out of a situation rather than follow orders to shoot. Each team member feels compelled to help to stop the Nazi machine. Alfred is terrified of noise and danger, but he too is determined to overcome his challenges to help the war effort. The characters simply cannot sit by and watch.
The episodes haunted me. As I watched, I wondered what I would have done had I lived in post-1933 Europe or in post-1939 Canada. Would I have had the courage to speak out? Would I have been prepared to give my own life to aid Jews being humiliated in the streets of Europe or sent to ghettos and camps? Would I have volunteered to take an active part in the war effort at home or abroad to help thwart a world threat to freedom?
I couldn’t answer the question. Actually, that’s not really true. I have to say out loud that I would not have had the courage to put my life on the line. In the depths of my cowardly heart, I was grateful that life, thanks to some fortunate star, had so far spared me those hard decisions. Instead, it had shown me a panoply of issues I thought I could keep at arm’s length: racism toward First Nations peoples, famine in developing countries, atrocities in El Salvador, Argentina, and Chile, genocide in Rwanda. I was able to pay lip service to acknowledging those causes—learning about Treaties and dismembering myths, giving money for famine relief, reading about upheaval in Central America and Africa. I was too busy with my life, my career and my family, however, to do more. Someone else could do it. Others were doing it.
Well, no longer. The Canadian election campaign of the summer and fall of 2015 jolted me. During those months, proposals of a barbaric cultural practices tip line, hate memes directed at Muslims and stories of physical and verbal abuse of minorities in Canada made me wonder what had happened to the Canada I thought I knew. Canadians rallied, though, and rejected the party of division and the past. The hatred and resentment went underground again, to fester.
We were only picking at the scab on the sore then, it seems. The campaign of Donald Trump ripped the scab right off, exposing the rawness underneath. His election to the presidency of the United States has made things even worse. It has given angry people in Canada as well as the US permission to scrawl hate messages on synagogues and mosques, and to insult people on public transportation, and to attack individuals.
My day of reckoning has arrived. My hour has come. I can no longer rationalize mere lip service. I have to act, whatever the cost. Inspired by columnists Nicholas Kristof and Charles Blow of the New York Times, who have both vowed to continue to speak out, I must call out hate in whatever form I see it, and share articles on the subject as well. The same goes for the falsehood and misinformation that unscrupulous people use to advance their ideas, discredit their naysayers, and make themselves look good (see Trump and the Kentucky Fordfactory). Third, in my own sphere, thinking globally and acting locally, I will continue to support refugees, defend First Nations and stand in solidarity with them, and work for social justice in my community.
I intend to use this blog as well. My life after "retirement" has taken an unexpected direction—activism. Those of you who follow this blog know that I like to tell stories, to reflect on the human condition, and to find meaning in even so-called insignificant moments of the day. Those posts will continue. You may, however, find more posts with a political slant going forward. I hope that my thoughts on the effect of events on my retired life will not dissuade you from reading.
Sometimes, even the innocuous exploration of a new TV series can bring about a stark moment of life-changing clarity. X-Company’s prescient context and themes mixed with unfolding political events to create a chemical reaction: a bright light around mission at this stage in my life. And, by the way, the final season of X-Company begins on CBC on January 11, 2017. Season 2 is available online, and Season 1 on DVD.