Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Bloody Poppies

So, it's that time of year again - that time when talk of the world wars suddenly rises from the ashes and we all wear poppies to support the veterans of those wars.

Last year I posted about why I don't wear a poppy. This year, again, I am not wearing a poppy, but still remembering. But I have noticed that the collective minds of the masses seems to have decided either in favour of my direction or to simply forget.

To reiterate what I said last year: Ever since September 11th rhetoric started to get mixed up with world war remembrance rhetoric the poppy turned just didn't do it. Even if you listen to the straight-up nothing but "remember the 'Great' Wars" rhetoric, we're getting into foggy territory. Yes, it is important to remember the terrible losses (by which I mean hundreds of thousands of deaths, not "casualties") but to what extent are we glorifying the very act of war with this remembrance? The poem that the poppy symbolism comes from states, very clearly: "Take up our quarrel with the foe:/ To you from falling hands we throw/ The torch; be yours to hold it high." (McCrae 1915). That's a pretty clear statement of "Keep this damned war going."

Another issue I keep taking with the Remembrance Day deal are our "new" modern wars. Sure, people said that World War I was "the first modern war" - but was it really? It seems to me that World War I and World War II were really the exception. Modern Wars seems to be the ability to inflict as much damage on the "enemy" with as little damage on your own troops - current wars, Afghanistan and Iraq as our primary example (where's the talk about these places, now that suddenly the US is in an era of progression?). "Our" side, the "good guys" have a death toll of something like a mere tenth of how many of "Their" side, the "bad guys" have had? Is that war, or is that a one sided slaughter with the victims doing their best to fight back?

YES, we must remember the lessons of World Wars I and II. But we've very obviously already forgotten them, and remembered absolutely nothing but the bloody poppy! Wars today are being fought for the same reasons they were being fought back then. It's very much colonialism under a vague flag of "We're democratic, let us free the victims of these totalitarian states" and "Bringing Free and Democratic Trade to the land of the oppressed!". But we are setting ourselves in the space of the oppressor, and maybe they can vote on their government, but these countries, set up as they are being set up - even if they were able to emerge peacefully (and I beg you all to remember that if Canada or the States were thrown down into a state of Anarchy by another country, we would not emerge any more peacefully than Iraq or Afghanistan or any other country has in history), World Trade sanctions and unfair trading treaties are already being placed on them - making it pretty much impossible for them to emerge in a state of anything but poverty.

So, again: I cannot wear a poppy that stands for "remembrance" of previous wars, when the bloodthirst of my own nation (and its closest ally) is so apparent. I repeat: we have not retained anything except this bloody poppy. So maybe it's time to start a new way of remembrance, one that ties itself to remembering why we shouldn't be invading other countries for colonial purposes.

Or maybe we should strip back this artificial veneer of pretending we remember and recognize the sacrifices of World War veterans and start actually remembering and recognizing their sacrifices - as well as the sacrifices of so many millions of innocent victims who did not fight in these wars, but were merely killed in them.

1 comment:

miaka said...

Beautiful post. Thanks so much for this. I completely agree. Wearing the poppy disgusts me now.