Saturday, October 2, 2010

A Man in Uniform

With the 100th anniversary celebration of the Canadian Navy I have been seeing a lot of different uniforms popping up around town this year. It is always interesting to take my daily trip across the harbour to see the ships lined up and try to remember which country has what flag. It is not only the navy that Halifax sees uniforms for. We also have the airforce, army, RCMP, Police, fire department, etc. This city was built on the backs of those who wear an uniform. Here are some books that involve uniforms but don’t always follow a uniform writing style.

A Man in Uniform by Kate Taylor. This is a fictional account of the case against French artillery officer, Captain Alfred Dreyfus who was Jewish. Dreyfus was accused in 1894 of selling military secrets to Germany. He was sentenced to a life in prison. In 1864 new evidence was found that seemed to prove his innocence. This controversial case split France. On the anti-Dreyfus side were royalists, militarists and Roman Catholics. On his side were republicans, socialists and famous author Emile Zola. Zola published what has been called history’s greatest newspaper article "J’Accuse" in L’Aurore accusing the army of a coverup. For this he was sentenced to jail for criticizing the government’s role in the Dreyfus case. It wasn’t until 1906 that Dreyfus was pardoned for his crime.

Mrs. Mike by Benedict and Nancy Freedman is based on the love story of RCMP Sergeant Mike Flannigan and his wife Katherine Mary O’Fallon Flannigan. Katherine is an Irish American girl from Boston who sets out to Alberta to improve her health. There she meets and marries Mike Flannigan, an RCMP officer. They move 700 miles north of Edmonton where Katherine is the only white woman for hundreds of miles. The Flannigan’s are so likable that you cheer for their success and worry over their hardships. Originally published in 1947, it is a tale that has survived the passing of time.

Anything You Say Can and Will Be Used Against You, by Laurie Lynn Drummond. A former officer for the Baton Rogue Police Department, has written a collection of stories about female police officers. Drummond’s cops are true to what you think any cop could be, regardless of gender. They exhibit the same flaws as in male counterparts, drink too much, flout the rules, sleep with the wrong person, mishandle prisoners, etc... Their jobs are like their guns, a source of security and pain. In the first story, Katie describes "the constant steady bruise on the hipbone where my gun caresses the skin a deeper purple day after day". In a later story Mona states " ...gun bumping and rubbing against your hipbone. There is a permanent bruise on the skin....Your gun is a natural extension of your body." These stories show the slight differences between male and female cops while showing the gender really doesn’t make that much of a difference in the harsh world of fighting crime.

No matter what the uniform may be, we all have to realize that there is an individual under the stereotype the clothing makes you think of. We may not all wear an official uniform but we all present a mask of sorts in our public lives. Think of that the next time you get a ticket or sing the song "what do you do with a drunken sailor"!

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