Friday, 11 November 2011

The torch; be yours to hold it high

 I agree with some of the sentiments I have read regarding Rememberance Day but not with the reasoning. I understand some of the ill feeling, and where it comes from, but let me say this. It's wrong. There is much resentment be it, cultural, political or religious. Some consider 'The Poppy' to be 'symbolised imperialism, some say it is disrespectful to other cultures. I disagree with a lot of this nonsence. I also disagree with the flag waving mindset of ownership that incites division and conflict.

For me it simply is this. The poppy was chosen as a symbol by popular demand to represent Armistice day after a poem, called, 'Flander's Fields' by John MCrae, was sent to the magazine 'Punch'.

Armistace day itself was a concept created, following an open letter to the London Evening News was sent by Edward Honey. This was through collective pressure from the public who didn't know how best to celebrate the anniversary for the END OF WAR.

 He 'had been prompted to make the suggestion as he had been angered by the way in which people had celebrated with dancing in the streets on the day of the Armistice, and believed a period of silence to be a far more appropriate gesture in memory of those who had died at war'. He also suggested the date, which was honoured the following year.

In short, 'The poppy' and 'Rememberance day' was created by the people, for the people and belongs to the people. It is specifically chosen to represent this particular war (WW1) alongside others within our Western culture, so that we remember. They symobolise a way to respect those who fell, away from the rhyme and reason, away from the bureaucracy and hypocrisy, away from denial and lies.

Yes this war and all wars are a tragic waste of life and have caused much pain and suffering and anger for those who remain. We are all serving the nation in some way, like it or not. This is not adverse to that struggle. You may have a personal battle or a sense loss and anger. You may view the poppy with political intensity because of that loss. Yet it serves it's purpose. It forces you to remember and sets a specific time to do so collectively, as a nation.

 How other cultures remember their loss, whatever symbolism they use, whatever ceremonies are observed, is irrevelent to this war and how we remember it. That doesn't in any way demean their losses or their culture. Personally if I were on my travels and came across a remembrance ceremony in a different culture with symbolic gesture, I would embrace it with respect.

Remembrance Day and The Poppy is not intended as a symbol of division or political statement or racial hatred. It's intended so that those who died are respected and remembered in our own personal way. The message isn't to glorify war it is to mourn our dead. It should help me and you to oppose future wars because without these symbols the message is lost. 'Lest we forget' is a message for the people to remind those who are in  'positions of privilege' not to go to war.

Use remembrance day and the poppy to remember your loss, not for a reason to home in your anger against it. Use it to support your feelings. Oppose it and risk losing it and forgetting those needlessly lost.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
      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.

John McCrae