My bill-paying, keep-the-banker happy job is for a foreign-owned corporation. Well, not really foreign — Canadian. Emails in two languages aside, I must admit my corporate parent at times is more American than many U.S. companies these days.
There is an entrepreneurial spirit that would make Adam Smith proud, a work ethic second to none and a can-do attitude straight from the lips of Rosie the Riveter.
Included is a realistic environmental focus that has Teddy Roosevelt shouting “Bully!” from the grave and a diversity and inclusion philosophy that isn’t just bantered about for effect but because it makes good business sense.
I would never want to be under the national health care system or the speech codes, but as jobs go, it’s the best gig I’ve had since I was running my hay rig back when bales were square and we stacked them “high and tight.”
One way headquarters keeps us abreast of where we’re going is through webcasts and live question-and-answer sessions with company executives. The most recent was held the day before Halloween, and a noticeable aspect of this one was that each panelist was wearing a red poppy.
I learned of the poppy’s meaning here in the United States when I was still just a kid and the local VFW post had its sales drives and donation cans out.
What I did not know was the Canadian tradition — a tradition that as it was being explained to us had me wishing on the spot that we Yanks would adopt it posthaste.
We refer to Nov. 11 as Veterans Day, but in Canada and across the British Commonwealth, it’s “Remembrance Day.” And while here in the States the day gets usurped with mattress sales and car lot liquidations, our neighbors take it much more seriously.
Depending on the province, some see most retail stores closed for the day, others not opening until 12:30 p.m., after the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month ceremonies. There’s no nationwide law requiring closings, but the fact that many do illustrates a level of commitment to the solemnity of the day long lost on American retail.
But what impressed me the most was learning that it wasn’t just one day. Wearing the poppy starts on the last Friday of October and continues through to Nov. 11. It’s an entire period of reflection, not just a day on the calendar, and it’s certainly not a day for “blowout” sales.
In researching this column, I came across a 2014 Global News Canada story with a headline you’ll never see here in the States: “Retailers face backlash after offering Remembrance Day sales.”
There’s a quote from a Meredith Mednick, who had a brother serving at the time, and she had received a GAP email advertising a Remembrance Day deal: “I was pretty taken aback that they would have taken advantage of Remembrance Day as a day to kind of make a profit. When I looked back on it throughout the day, I realized they probably equated Remembrance Day to Veterans Day, where in America it is very different.”
As I read Mednick’s quote, I sadly realized she was exactly right: It is different down here. I’d love for someone — anyone — to tell me just when did we sink so low that we allowed veterans and their sacrifice and service to be relegated to three-day weekends and carnival barking sales?
Yes, yes, I know — the First Amendment gives them the right. But there’s a bottomless chasm that separates “having” a right and “doing” what’s right.
I personally have never purchased anything advertised as a Veteran’s Day or Memorial Day “sale” — not one single item, ever.
From the time when I was old enough to realize just how special this nation truly is, how high the sacrifice paid by so many, I have despised the capitalism that disrespects the memory of each and every one. And I’m a capitalist through and through.
Therein lies one of the most fundamental issues of our national divide today: on one side, those who see nothing wrong with profiting off the dead; on the other side, those of us who find it disgusting.
We can disagree on specific policies, we can have differences on foreign policy, but what we cannot disagree on is that our neighbors to the north do a lot better job respecting the true cost of freedom than we do.
Tomorrow is Veterans Day.
All I can do today is ask you to at least try to remember what it means. Hint: It’s not furniture and four-wheel drives.
Geoff Caldwell lives in Joplin. He can be reached at email@example.com.