Are You Disconnected From History?


Social scientists tell us that one of the unique characteristics of Western culture in our generation is an increasing disconnection with our history and heritage. Those connections used to provide a sense of identity, a sense of participation in a type of cultural legacy that informed personal identity and sense of belonging.

Coupled with the isolating effects of social media, many of today’s generation find themselves without mooring or anchor, buffeted by life’s storms.

Recently speaking at a service commemorating Remembrance Day and the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, I brought attention to the chain I occasionally wear around my neck. On the chain are three dog-tags and an expended rifle cartridge.

historyThe first is my father’s dog tag from military service in WWII. Though he never saw active duty due to a perforated ear drum, he enlisted and was part of an infantry unit. This dog tag reminds me that I am a son.

The second is one of the dog tags we made for our boys. They carry the inscription, 1 Peter 2:17 “Honour all men, love the brotherhood”. For our family, the brotherhood represents our 7 boys and me, their dad. Unlike many other cultures with strong symbols of heritage, ours does not include a rite of passage ceremony celebrating passing into manhood.

In 2012, as a family, we had an official ceremony celebrating the maturity of the older boys, and calling our 2 youngest into manhood during through this ceremony. We made the Gordon Brotherhood Covenant, vowing to be each other’s cheerleaders, encouragers, and mutual supporters and defenders—and sealed the occasion with our dog tags, symbols reminding us of our covenant with each other. This dog tag reminds me that I am a father.

The third and last dog tag has the inscription Leave No Man Behind, the motto of an army’s Band of Brothers committed to fighting against the enemy—but on behalf of every other soldier. This dog tag reminds me that I am a brother.

I am a son.

I am a father.

I am a brother.

The rifle shell on my chain was taken from a 21–gun salute at my nephew’s military funeral in Ottawa. Jim Mitchell (Jim was named after me) was killed in battle in Afghanistan on October 3, 2006.  I was honoured to speak at his funeral, where he was recognized as a fallen hero of our country. There I picked up a shell as a continual reminder to me that I too have to be willing to die.

Because I am a son, and a father, and a brother, my actions will be circumspect, will reflect both the responsibilities I carry, and the joyful anticipation of blessings I enjoy.

Our identity will inform our behaviour.