This is Sue's not-so-better half posting... and sharing, with Sue's blessing, my Facebook status for this morning. I hope it rings true in some way to you...
It's sad, really. As a young lad, I remember hearing my mom tell me about how the downtown Toronto streets would grind to an almost silent halt and people in offices, schools... everywhere would stop at 11am on November 11th and think on those who'd passed during the great conflicts this country was involved in.
Today, I'll board a TTC vehicle which, at 11am, will be loaded with people who are at best indifferent, at worst ignorant. I will go to an office where the business of business will carry on without stop regardless of what time it is. I will notice that the busy street-scapes will continue to be busy at 11am without cessation.
I suppose it's only right... after all, most people are now far removed from those conflicts and thanks to political stupidity and fear, the current conflicts are either oddly celebrated with all the gusto the distant arm-chair quarterbacks can muster (while denying those serving good pensions and care once they're home because God forbid their tax burden increases) or loathed by people who weren't born then, but wish the (idealised) 1960's had never ended and just wish to chant "PEACE!" despite not realising that the people - civilians - in these conflicts, often wish other parties would come to defend them... so why worry about a silly old tradition?
I only wish that those people who don't care could meet the folks that both suffered and/or served in conflicts and civilians that have had to live around and in conflicts and consider everything. One of the biggest consideration is the thought that most of us have a reason that we would die for... not all of them are based on corporations or political boundaries or religious beliefs or race or philosophy. Sometimes, a conflict for some is to keep the zealots from allowing us to carry on a normal life... sending our kids to school, feeding ourselves, ensuring that we can build as opposed to dodge destruction. In Canada and many other places, Remembrance Day is also in memory of peace keepers who died in service... don't they deserve a thought too... even for a lousy minute of silence one every year?
...and as cliché as it sounds, no, I have personally never met a battle veteran who sincerely wishes everyone would pick up a weapon and fight someone... far from that... most I've met don't want anyone to have to do this at all which is why they square away their participation... so that hopefully other's won't have to. That's why they hope we don't forget... so we don't fight needlessly... so we remember the cost and toll.
As always of recent, the White Poppy vs. the Red Poppy debate quietly rages... and some of us get BOTH ideas... but I would say this to the White Poppy wearers...
Proceeds from the Red Poppies go to the Royal Canadian Legion which is an established veterans organisation. I admit, I'm not a member and in many ways, have issues with SOME of the politics of SOME of that organisation and it's members, but our local Legion, a fine building with a wee museum, was recently sold... one assumes, considering the neighbourhood, the fine building will probably be levelled and become more condominiums. The ranks of the veterans are much smaller and shrinking always... so the lack of members is putting pressure on the group which has done good work for many. The Red Poppy is in respect of Guelph, Ontario's own John McCrae who was not a combat soldier as such, but a surgeon who knew the cost of war first hand. He didn't die in "glorious battle", but of pneumonia in Boulogne in 1918. If you really, Really, REALLY read that poem and think it's truly "pro-war", then there's something wrong with you in my eyes. Yes, the last stanza is...
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.
...but I'd remind people of something I knew immediately as a kid. This is dead young men "saying" this, as written by a doctor desperately trying to keep them alive... and all too often failing. One should SINCERELY remember the first parts of this short poem...
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.
Not exactly a rallying cry in my opinion... so I wear my Red Poppy in remembrance of them... and of Marcel Didier, RCN, who didn't like to talk about his service... but who would when one of your memories was being aboard Haida during the sinking of HMCS Athabaskan (G07) and the horror involved with that. I also remember James St.Clair-Hughes and his daughter, Elisabeth Noyes (formerly Didier and before that, St.Clair-Hughes) who was a member of The Royal Canadian Engineers based on the home front, but through bravado and a willingness to "go public", would help entertain troops with song and dance... and a daughter who played piano quite well. I was never told of "BRAVE BATTLE!" from them... but about the cost... seeing the wounded men and trying to make them smile.
I also remember friends who served in peace keeping duties in more recent memory... and those who I know who have served in Afghanistan.
That's the Red Poppy to me personally... but "In Flanders Fields" also makes me think of those poor, scared, tired, and sick men in the trenches of Vimmy or at The Somme or Ypres or Hong Kong or The North Atlantic or Holland or Italy or Korea or Kandahar... and that's enough for me to realise that the Red Poppy is "Lest We Forget" that they gave all so we won't or at least, shouldn't have to.
The White Poppy is not a new thing, (1926 is when they first appeared,) but it's shape and design is (especially now) antagonistic and a weird emblem of self-righteousness and not-all-that-passive aggressiveness from those who don't seem to know or understand history. The money from (most that I could fine) White Poppies in Canada seems to not have a direct target... outside seemingly the production of more White Poppies. This said, oddly enough, I do believe in its purpose... remembering peace... and wishing/hoping/"fighting" for peace. This is an honourable thought and course of action.
In my perfect world, the two poppies would be combined... with the proceeds of the Red Poppy helping those who have served either via The Legion or through other sources... and the White Poppy's proceeds funding organisation like The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and/or Médecins Sans Frontières...
THAT would be a perfect world.
This said, I really don't care White or Red... just take a few moments... remember and think of those who did give all so that we shouldn't have to...
...and if you REALLY wish to be more proactive, something MORE than wearing a symbol on your jacket, please speak to your MP or directly to Veteran's Affairs in Ottawa... the said-same 'Rah-Rah' types who shouted and waved flags as men and women put on their kit and marched off, are now cutting their services in the name of "making Canada better" with lower taxes. For those that think this is right, enjoy that $1 a year you'll have in your pocket which could have helped thousands of soldiers.
I am sorry to those of you who DON'T share the political views of the party sponsoring this petition, but you don't have to "join" that party or agree with ANYTHING else they do, and you most certainly don't have to vote for them... this issue, as Rick Mercer recently said (see below) is not about politics... but if you AGREE with the notion that "Lest We Forget" also refers to those who are still with us, then let the current body politic know and please, let them know the majority of voting Canadians, left and right and centre, just want the people that did things so we may not have be treated better.
A new (and I'd qualify as good) acquaintance of mine who's a decorated veteran met with Julian Fantino, our current head Veteran's Affairs minister, and asked about the cuts to veterans' services and pensions, and Mr. Fantino apparently replied dryly, "They have OHIP still." Charming. (For our out-of-Canada readers, OHIP is The Ontario Health Insurance Plan or the standard public health plan... which does not include MANY of the essential treatments needed for people coming back from combat. It's a "bare necessity" affair for everyone... good, but not comprehensive.) I would like to point out, however, that this is NOT just one party or another in Canada... even the party hosting the petition needs to show they're different when it comes to our veterans... but it's indicative of the apathy and that should change.