Letters to the editor 

History lessons in democracy

I was disturbed to read Dr. Maxwell's Oct. 22 screed.

I do not normally read newspapers; I find them unsettling. But there is a lot of news about these days and I thought I'd have a look.

There is, in particular, a surfeit of news related to the upcoming Olympics here in my hometown. (Well, not exactly my hometown... I grew up in West Vancouver and had to hitchhike here until I could afford to buy a house.) But I am quite interested in the Olympics; the run-up to it has given all of us six years of in-your-headlights highway improvements, just as promised by the provincial government, and those folks do keep their promises, don't they? Right down to the last nickel.

My father, a lumber trader for the now-historical Macmillan-Bloedel Co., had two other hobbies: travel and history. He schooled me in the latter; one of my earliest memories is being read a bedtime story about the murder of Tsar Nicholas and his family by the Bolsheviks. One of my earliest field trips, in 1966, ran me into postwar East London, much of it still in ruins.

Dad took passage on a ship from Montreal to London not too long after the 1936 Berlin Olympics. His travel plans were to get as far East as possible, including Germany... and, if he could, Russia. He got increasingly nervous as time and distance passed, and turned around in the fall of 1937. Read the Signs, as it were. His take on the course of events in Europe at that time included a detailed analysis of how a military dictatorship buried German democracy.

Many years later, as a cabdriver in Vancouver, I met a German lady who was a child in Munich during WWII. She told me the locals, by and large, had no idea of the horrors of the internment camps, and the brutalities inflicted by the SS, until the end of the war.

We are perilously close to such a situation now. Just as in 1936, the Big Show is more important than the rights and freedoms given us by the best of lawyers and lawmakers, and by ourselves.

We never had a real opportunity to debate, as a town, whether to host this insanely expensive Olympics, nor to debate whether it should be a public priority to host such an event. This lack of opportunity to choose such an event - or to veto its coming - has turned into a freefall for local democracy. None of us have much of a say, nor have we had one from the start. We should take this as a sign of how our leaders respect our constitutional rights.

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