On Remembrance Day, November 11, we recall our heroes. We honour them as exemplars of the virtues that we hope to attain: patriotism, strength, commitment.
In the U.S., the same date is called Veterans Day. It celebrates those who have been in military service. Memorial Day south of the border honours soldiers who died. It is on the last Monday in May.
There is a subtle difference here. Canadians bring a collective memory—respect and remembrance—to the entire arena for just one day. Those who served, those who survived, those who fell, those who continue to serve—we honour them. Heroism, if it is there at all, is an act of participation.
My filmmaking partner Garry Beitel and I are working on a documentary about peace builders. These are men and women working in hostile environments to bring sides in conflict together. They work with such organizations as InterPeace, the International Crisis Group, Nonviolent Peaceforce, and others we may not have heard of. Their goal is to end armed violence through negotiation, mediation and community dialogue. They are engaged quietly and often successfully, some for decades, in several countries.
Here, at the end of November, the YMCAs of Quebec will award peace medals to local organizations with similar commitments and tangible success. The work of civilian peace builders is increasingly important in a world where the victims of war are often innocent men, women and children.
Canada was once the world leader. We were first among nations in United Nations peacekeeping efforts. More than that, we were the initiators. In 1956, Prime Minister Lester Pearson helped create the first UN intervention of neutral military personnel, or peacekeepers, in the Sinai. For this, Pearson received the Nobel Peace Prize.
For decades, Canadians were the muscle, if you will, under those blue berets. But in the past 20 years several governments have taken a different stand. We moved from the long, boring, difficult process of peace-making and peacekeeping, to the affirming resoluteness of military campaigns. Real soldiers go to war. Witness Afghanistan. Witness Libya.
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We shifted our resources and our military from the tangled webbing of UN peacekeeping efforts to the aggressive interventions of NATO. But, even as we dropped from No. 1 in UN peacekeeping support to, believe it or not, about No. 60 today, there are Canadians out there, trained and determined to end conflicts, trying to bring warring factions together, bridging gaps and choosing to build bridges to peace rather than just keep enemies apart. Although media often ignore them, their efforts over the past couple of decades have been successful in reducing the incidence of armed conflict.
A few are soldiers, but most don’t wear uniforms. They don’t carry flags and rarely guns. But they are out there building peace and training others. We rarely hear about what they are doing—in Mali, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in other African countries, in the Middle East, sometimes in South America, and even in Europe and Asia.
While building peace doesn’t get as much coverage as sustaining war, peace builders are creating the groundwork by proving that there are non-violent models for conflict resolution.
From the sublime, perhaps, to the ridiculous—what else can the Flavourguy offer but a Hero Sandwich? This is also known as a submarine, hoagie, muffaletta grinder or po’ boy, among others. Names for this kind of sandwich and its fillings always speak to a distinctive demographic. According to one Wikipedian entry, a po’ boy (or poor boy), when filled with fried oysters, might be called “La Mediatrice” or “peacemaker” because a fella, done with a night on the town, might bring this home to keep the peace.
The Hero’s etymology is unclear; maybe it was so big that you had to be a hero to eat one. However, it was once very common to Italian communities in New York City and New England. It is a long roll filled with Italian goodies. I remember a particularly tasty version that I ate in Natick, Massachusetts, that had eggplant, tomato sauce and pickled peppers. The roll was toasted and the sandwich served hot from a pizza oven.
But I wouldn’t say no to an Italian Hero at home: a ciabatta, untoasted, piled with slices of provolone and mozzarella, Italian cold cuts such as capicola, genoa salami and mortadella, sliced ripe olives, a thin layer of hot peppers, and a drizzle of olive oil. Once you have built this sandwich, press it firmly together and then let it rest for a bit so that the flavours can come together.