where the poppies grow
THE WAR FLOWER
year in the week leading up to November 11th, the red poppy blooms
across Canada. It's part of the ritual remembrance of Canadian
wars and casualties, the price of freedom and the victory of good
Canadians, the war poppy is about all of these things, but it's
about something else as well. It's about the rightness of conformity
and assimilation through received truths
and tossed about in the bustling crowds in train stations, airports,
shopping centres and sporting events in the days leading up to
Remembrance Day, you cannot help but be struck by the sea of red
poppies, rising and falling and sweeping up everything in its
way. You'd be hard-pressed to find anyone without a red poppy
pinned to a coat, jacket, sweater, blouse, shirt, hat, scarf,
necktie or backpack.
These red poppies, memorialized in the solemn war poem “In
Flanders Field,” mark the dead from bloody World War I battles
in northern France and Belgium. Here in Canada, today in the 21st
century, this war poem is the liturgy and the red poppy the icon
for the annual observance of remembrance and sacrifice.
is, however, a casualty that often goes unnoticed. There's little
remembering just why Canada went to war in 1914, whether the guys
on the other side really were evil monsters, how exuberant patriotism
and thin-skinned nationalism can distort reality, or whether war
can ever be thoroughly revolting one or more generations removed.
And there's little distinction between the due respect and pity
for those consumed by the war and the dubious notion that fighting
and dying can always be given meaning by the just cause. Worst
is the poem’s eternally recurring and disturbing call to
arms for all who remain . . . undead.
by Peter McMillan