An entry from Sunday in The Carpetbagger Report, got me to thinking tonight, after I made that last post, about the symbolism of poppies, especially with regard to the Memorial Day (or Canadian Remembrance Day) holiday. When I was in grade school, I remember that each spring, not long before school let out, we were asked to make small contributions to buy little crepe paper wired stem poppies made by disabled veterans in Veterans' Hospitals across the country. Being the fan of crepe paper that I've always been, I was eager to scrape together my change to buy a few of these to wear as a patriotic symbol of my respect for soldiers past ... and as I got older, we were taught to read Lt. Colonel John McCrae's (a most memorable Canadian) famous elegiacal World War I poem, In Flanders Field. Though it may seem a bit hackneyed and schmaltzy to contemporary sensibilities, it still packs a truly nostalgic and powerful punch as a tribute to those killed in warfare. That's where the symbolism of the little crepe paper poppies came from.
Think about it ... it took the lyrical musings of a Canadian soldier who witnessed war first hand and watched his comrades die violently in battle to immortalize this most brutal (previous) war to US Americans. Where were the poems written by US Americans? To my knowledge, they don't exist, and if anyone can point me to some commemorating such deaths, please correct me in the comments.
Of course, all this got me to thinking about our soldiers now fighting and dying on a daily basis in Iraq. How these young lives are being cut short, crippled and otherwise permanently altered by the conflict in which we currently find ourselves engaged ... all for a handful of metaphorical magic beans bargained for by the dubiously appointed Child Emperor Megalomaniac in Chief currently occupying the seat of power in this, the U S and A. It truly saddens me, not just for the lives lost and the lives no longer to be lived "normally," but for what our country has become. Peddlers of aggression, mass death and lies, a xenophobic population of paranoid citizens who have been trained, since 2001, to fear those who might be of a different faith and skin colour. Catapulting this propaganda to perpetuate the war has sickened me, and especially when that fabled "28% base" continues to promulgate those well-worn lies.
More than Lt. Colonel McCrae's poem, these contemporary circumstances really sadden me ... Every time I see yet another update on the death toll, and yes, Mr. Bush, it IS a death toll --not a tax you have conveniently renamed and have defamed-- not just another of "The Fallen," I think sadly of those young lives snuffed out in their prime, never to reach their full potential. Yes, not all of our soldiers are as worthy as others to be held in such high esteem, but no matter who they are, they have been sent into battle (and for whatever underlying personal reasons they may have had) for the most spurious of reasons. All the proponents of the neo-con PNAC project have had their way, and we now see just what poisonous fruits their pipe dreams have begotten us.
I clearly have been, and remain, a vehement opponent of this trumped up war. But as I was inculcated as a child to admire and respect unquestioningly past soldiers lost in wars, I do recognize the work they do (and yes, it IS work, no matter how we choose to define it), is undertaken at the command of a government that they serve without question. That's where this nation has gone so egregiously wrong. Those who respect our soldiers, yet question the mission they have been given, are characterized as "traitors" and "white flag wavers," and no matter how much John McCain may protest otherwise, they have been sent on a lethal fool's errand. For no other reason if at all, they have been most grievously abused and misled. Like much of our nation, they thought they were answering a call to preserve our freedom and ended up in a confusing conflict that the powers currently in charge would prefer to continue indefinitely ... to serve selfish ends, to enrich those who hold themselves at a comfortable and safe distance from it all, much preferring to let others do battle for their own self-serving, venal interests.
This unjust and illegal war must end. Sooner, rather than later, if we are to preserve a generation of young men and women. The scars of those who return will haunt us if we do not acknowledge the colossal mistake that has been made by a gang of ideologues and thugs who have steamrolled the US public for the past five years. And for those who have perished in the folly that is this war so far, I can only offer condolences to their families ... I can't say thankful that they have served this particular purpose, but I can offer them my gratitude for having bravely fought for a cause they undoubtedly thought was just ... even if they were sorely misled by their leaders.
I support the troops --if for no other reason-- because they have been misled. Not all are pure, that is sure, but at some deeper level, they did believe that what they were doing was right. It's a lot easier to forgive some missteps from those who are commanded, than those who would put them in such a dangerous situation under what have now been proven to be fictional circumstances.
This poppy is for you. Hold it near and remember where we have been. Let us vow to end this war and prevent such future escapades, for the benefit of not only this fine nation of people, but for the world at large.
To conclude with Lt. Colonel McCrae's words ....
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow In Flanders fields.
It's time folks ... ITMFA, indeed! It's only the just thing to do ...