Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 18, No. 5, 2019
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Robert J. Lewis
  Senior Editor
Bernard Dubé
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Barbara Ehrenreich
Leon Wieseltier
Nayan Chanda
Charles Lewis
John Lavery
Tariq Ali
Michael Albert
Rochelle Gurstein
Alex Waterhouse-Hayward

where the poppies grow



Every 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 over evil.

Among 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

Jostled 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.

There 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
Clash of Civlizations


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Arts & Opinion, a bi-monthly, is archived in the Library and Archives Canada.
ISSN 1718-2034


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