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Monday, November 12, 2012

The Poppies of Flanders Fields

The Poppy - Used as a Symbol to Remember the Horrors of War


"In Flanders Fields" 
By John McCra

 

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

 

A few reflections... 

Yesterday, 11th November at 11 in the morning, Commonwealth countries celebrated Remembrance Day. However, you may know this day from many of its titles, such as Poppy Day and Armistice Day.

This day was originally intended to remind us of the thousands of men, mostly young men, who died in the trenches of World War I and World War II. The poppy, used as a symbol of this event, was inspired by the poem above entitled “In Flander’s Field” by John McCrae who served in the First World War himself.

It appears to be a simple poem but it prompted me to reflect on the futility of war. Indeed, all the horrible killing that took place on the fields of Flanders, Belgium, were overtaken by nature. The human acts of murder and destruction were replaced by rows and rows of red poppies. In a way, one can see this of nature’s way of expressing mourning for such a great loss of life.

One can argue that the wars taking place in the beginning of the 20th century were necessary to protect our civilisation. Yet, I don’t know whether this was our only option. It appears to me that amongst the chief causes of war is our tendency to separate ourselves from others. A misguided belief that we are somehow better and far superior than other people. And that those who don’t conform are keeping us back or, else, taking from us what we think is our by right.

However, the poppy fields appear to teach us that even from the worst acts of humanity, not all is lost. A hope, perhaps innocent, that death isn’t the final answer. That, terrible as things may be, there’s still hope for growth and renewal. A hope, perhaps, that we recognise the futility of war and violence. To take care not to repeat the patterns of violence and genocide.

Alas, wars are still with us today. And, the poppy day has been sometimes been misappropriated to promote the idea of patriotic duty and, perhaps, lure young men and women into war. A war that remains ugly as it goes against our basic need for each other to make it in this world.

This is more relevant today as we have greater power to destroy the world thanks to our nuclear technology. With these means of apocalyptic potential comes great responsibility. A responsibility that is unprecedented in human history.

For, while we may think the ‘end’ will never come, we should be careful about making the right choices in how we live and what decisions we have to take. We may not be able to stop it if we are faced by war. But we must make sure we have tried. The people living in pre-war Europe never imagined the terrible wars they would have to suffer. Yet, there were signs but people forgot or just remained silent. Until, of course, the human tragedy of war happened.

It may be time for all of us to reflect on the past which, for many of us, happened decades before we were born. Reflect on what remained of all the bloodshed. Memories, perhaps, but even those are slowly fading. Have we progressed? In some ways but there’s still war and fighting around the world on similar issues. Can we afford to be unconcerned? I can’t answer this for you.

The only thing I can say is that everything must come to an end. Even our human species in the course of time. It’s in our interests to protect our world and to invest in each other instead of destroying each other.

If we kill ourselves off tomorrow, the Earth will go on living.

Maybe poppies will die too.

But life will probably prevail.

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