The Plastic Hippo

November 11, 2016

In Flanders Fields

Filed under: History,Literature,Politics,Society — theplastichippo @ 3:00 am
Tags: , , ,

On another Armistice Day and with another sorry line of politicians trying desperately to look earnest as they lay poppy wreaths at the cenotaph, the passage of time means that there are no surviving veterans of the Great War and increasingly fewer survivors of the Second World War.

There was a time when our politicians understood the consequence of war as some of them experienced the brutality of conflict at first hand. Now dead; they have been replaced by politicians who are happy to engage in war from a distance and only if their own children are definitely not sent away to fight and die or fight and be maimed both physically and mentally. The closest these new Whitehall warriors come to the carnage is signing the contract that furnishes dictators with cluster bombs and the delivery platforms to blow away women and children. Look into their eyes as they remember the fallen and look into their morality as they place profits from the arms trade above human life.

In 1915, a Canadian soldier and physician witnessed his friend being killed at the second Battle of Ypres. Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae then wrote a poem to commemorate the passing of what Wilfred Owen later described as “these who die like cattle”. McCrae`s poem invokes vengeance and a duty to follow the dead in the “quarrel with the foe” which from the benefit of 100 years of retrospective analysis might suggest a certain jingoism. Indeed, the poem was exploited for propaganda purposes and was employed as a recruitment tool and an advertisement for the purchase of war bonds. It also gave rise to the red poppy as a symbol of remembrance of war dead that was later endorsed by Field Marshal Earl Haig, a British general also ironically known as the Butcher of the Somme. With all the best intentions, the poppy was intended as a symbol that demanded that a generation should never again be destroyed by war.

“In Flanders fields the poppies grow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

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.”

Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae died in France during late January 1918 after contracting cerebral meningitis brought on by pneumonia. The legend persists that upon completing the poem he crushed the page up and threw it away in disgust at the futility of war. We will never know what this man felt about his words being used to encourage others to hate and fight and die. With world governments now in the control of gangsters and idiots, the war to end all wars just became even more of a joke. A white poppy mourns everyone who died as a result of war and not just those carrying arms.

Today I wear a white poppy with pride and, given the current political madness, fully expect to face aggression.

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