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Voices ᐋ ᐄᔮᔨᐧᒫᓂᐧᐃᒡ

International Children’s Day

BY Sonny Orr Nov 21, 2019

My eight-year-old granddaughter bursts into the room declaring that it’s International Children’s Day, saying that means she is free to do what she wants. Hmmm, I think, I better check this out.

In a few clicks of the mouse I find that, indeed, today (November 20) is International Children’s Day. Why aren’t we aware of this? I click a few more times and discover that it originates from the first Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru. But today’s idealisms are more about keeping children safe from slave labour and other exploitations too horrid to mention. UNICEF is also a world leader in the advocacy of children’s rights around the globe and their efforts help keep many children from suffering. I look at my granddaughter doing exactly what she wants to do and I thank our good fortunes that we live where we live.

I believe that every childhood should have those magic moments that stay in our memories forever. They help us keep our faith and good attitudes.

I met a young man from North Africa once and he had memories of a childhood that no child should have, of war and bombings by aircraft. I noticed he winced and instinctively looked for cover when local flights droned overhead. We were far from town working on a small cabin and he had brought along his carpentry skills. As I look back to that day, I know why he wanted to be out on the land with us – for the quiet sounds free from bullets whizzing around and distant bombs going off. I felt for this young man and his lost childhood when he explained his odd behaviour to us. It was a story of a childhood no one should have to tell.

We are lucky to live in times like these. But some might forget that this life came at a price that no one should forget and that’s the lives of many nations fighting for freedom and a life free from tyranny. At least that is what it was supposed to be about.

I recently watched Dunkirk, a memorable war movie set during the Second World War. It got my attention for the varied stories that blended together quite nicely, but at the same time showed the horrors of that retreat by nearly a half million men from the shores of Dunkirk across the English Channel. Again, I greatly appreciate the efforts of the filmmakers to remind us that our freedom came with a cost. I have an even greater appreciation for those who fought in those wars so we could enjoy this quality of life today.

I’m hoping that this new generation of online educated youth will be able to rise above the problems created artificially by hatred and racism, poverty and homelessness. The future is brighter than we imagine if we don’t limit our children’s growth by all that bad stuff. We could make a great future devoid of the scars we carry today from a past that still haunts us.

My granddaughter is right, it is her day to do whatever she wants.

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Sonny Orr is Cree from Chisasibi, and has been a columnist for the Nation for over 20 years. He regularly pens Rez Notes from the cozy social club in Whapmagoostui where he resides.