Wednesday, September 26, 2007

I’ve Been Plagiarized – I Think

See I'm not really sure if the story that follows qualifies as plagiarism. I might have served as someone's muse, or it might just have been a case of slightly greater than average brains thinking alike. Here's the story, you decide.

I used to enjoy sending letters to the editor of the local newspaper. It's an interesting challenge to muster arguments and craft them clearly and concisely for the public in a forum where they'll probably get more readership per day than this blog (sorry but it's a fact). I did it a lot back in the days when my instrument for such things was a Remington that had seen better days or some cheap Japanese made electric rebranded by Eatons as one of their store brands (the Remington still works by the way, but like the company that sold it the Eaton's store brand typewriter has ceased to function – broken belt). I went on about any number of subjects but I think my proudest moment was when I had a brief letter published in the international edition of Britain's Express newspaper, correcting a story that claimed that if Prince William were to come to the throne under his given name (they don't have to you know) he would be William IV – he would in fact be William V; apparently I knew the history of the English monarchy better than the English.

In the days after I started my old Diplomacy zine (Making Love In A Canoe – it would also be the name of my first attempt at blogging) my output for the newspaper dried up. I was my own editor, not bound by the newspaper's restrictions on length or content. However the other day I saw something in the paper that was enough to get me to write. The city has a program to honour veterans by allowing them free parking. Currently this is tied to a special license plate that is issued by the provincial government through its insurance agency SGI to qualified people. The problem is that the government's criteria includes anyone who has ever served in the Canadian military or the reserves regardless of time of service or whether the person had ever been stationed overseas. City Council voted on Monday to ask the city's parking officials to come up with a new parking pass that would be issued to surviving veterans of the First (!?) and Second World Wars and the Korean War.

For a variety of reasons – not the least of which is the current Canadian military involvement in Afghanistan this seemed unfair to me so for the first time in a long time I wrote a letter to the newspaper. In my letter I claimed that restricting the parking reward (for their service) to veterans of the World War II and Korea was to denigrate the actions of others; men in women in the armed forces, including reservist, who are currently serving in Afghanistan, who had served during the Gulf War (mainly Air Force and Naval personnel), or in a host of peacekeeping missions from the Sinai, Cypress, and the Congo to Croatia and Bosnia. I even mentioned Canadian soldiers who were deployed to Germany during the Cold War. I pointed out that the risks they faced – including actual deaths and permanent injuries – were equal to the risks faced by veterans in the World Wars and Korea. I sent the letter by an email form on the newspaper's website on Tuesday morning and received a phone call to confirm that I had in fact written the letter.

Today (Wednesday) the newspaper ran an editorial called "All true veterans deserve parking" (not sure if this link works if you don't have an account with the newspaper) in which the collective editorial brain of the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix came out with the exact same proposal that I made in my letter. Here are three paragraphs from the Star-Phoenix editorial:

While it's a good idea to de-couple the issue of free parking for veterans from SGI's special poppy plates, it makes no sense to treat the contributions of some uniformed men and women who risked their lives on foreign missions as of lesser value than that of people who did it in two world wars and Korea.

From the service people currently on duty in Afghanistan to those who participated in the Gulf War to naval personnel who enforced UN sanctions against Iraq, plenty of others deserve equal recognition. And that's not to gloss over the contribution of soldiers who were stationed in Europe during the Cold War or the countless peacekeepers who served everywhere from Cypress to Sinai, or in Rwanda, Congo or the Balkans, or Mounties who helped out in Haiti.

The risks they faced cannot be discounted any more than the injuries many of them suffered in Answering Canada's call to serve its obligations on the international stage.

It's not bad stuff but you'll excuse me for thinking that a significant portion of it seems familiar to me. And it's not as if I dismiss the possibility that the newspaper came up with this position without input from me – though if they did, why didn't they come up with the idea on Monday night for their Tuesday morning edition (which is when the report on the original proposal to restrict the parking "reward" was published) or that they got more submissions than just mine which served as an inspiration. And it's not as if I don't appreciate the fact that the newspaper has taken what I obviously believe is the right position on this matter, given that an editorial in their pages will have more influence than one little letter to the editor. The problem is that if they run my letter tomorrow it comes across as me saying "me too" when it's entirely possible that the opposite is the case – that they're saying "us too" to me.

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