Remembrance Day is supposed to be about remembering our war dead. Although Canadians are told the red poppy sold by the Royal Canadian Legion is supposed to symbolize all war dead, in truth the red poppy symbol has become synonymous with Canadian military veterans and their families in Canada.
Whenever Remembrance Day rolls around, the focus is always on the two World Wars of the 20th Century. Yet World War I wasn’t called World War until there was a second World War. The war that inspired Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae’s famous poem was originally known as “The War to End All Wars.”
But as often happens, the haunting words of Dr McCrae’s poem, “In Flanders Fields,” were used almost from the start as a war promotion.
It is one of the most quoted poems from the war. As a result of its immediate popularity, parts of the poem were used in efforts and appeals to recruit soldiers and raise money selling war bonds. Its references to the red poppies that grew over the graves of fallen soldiers resulted in the remembrance poppy becoming one of the world’s most recognized memorial symbols for soldiers who have died in conflict. The poem and poppy are prominent Remembrance Day symbols throughout the Commonwealth of Nations, particularly in Canada, where “In Flanders Fields” is one of the nation’s best-known literary works. The poem is also widely known in the United States, where it is associated with Veterans Day and Memorial Day.
Although we are admonished “lest we forget,” war is still very much with us. And perhaps the most frightening thing about it is that Canada has been at war for most of the 21st Century, but we are barely aware of this fact. Think of any WWI war movie; no matter where it’s set, everyone everywhere, whether or not they supported the war, everyone was acutely aware it was going on.
Viet Nam changed all that.
When the people at home were faced with the unromanticized horrors of war, up close and personal at their dinner tables, an anti war movement of epic proportions arose, making it near impossible to keep the war going.
Governments learned from this mistake, and so the news coverage shared with the populace in the Main Stream Media is carefully managed.
Here in Canada, those of us at home are barely aware we’re at war at all. Many still bask in the outdated notion that the Canadian military is engaged in Peacekeeping. To get a real look at what the situation actually is, we need to know the facts. Fortunately, the Internet allows us to discover what the MSM fails to tell us.
Canadians need to know.
I’ve heard it said one reason the Canadian Government (whether run by Conservatives or Liberals) insists it can’t afford to adequately compensate our war veterans is because advances in medical technology means 21st Century veterans are much more likely to survive than WWI vets. It used to be that most casualties in war were sustained by the military, but these days that is no longer anywhere close to being true: civilian casualties vastly surpass those of the military.
What Colour is your Poppy?
Even though funds raised through red poppy sales are ostensibly to help our veterans, the symbol is so entwined with the mythos of war that I personally can no longer bear to wear one.
The Canadian Voice of Women For Peace champions the white poppy in Canada with its own White Poppy Campaign. The white poppy is the only one for me because it truly symbolizes all the casualties of war, winners and losers, soldiers and civilians, and just as important, it asks for peace.
—Laurel L. Russwurm
November 11th, 2018
Tamara Lorincz is a Balsillie School PhD Candidate, and a member of Canadian Voice of Women for Peace https://vowpeace.org/ and a member of Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space http://www.space4peace.org/
Tamara Lorincz’s Slides are available at http://kwpeace.ca/wp-content/uploads/…
Subscribe to the KWPeace Event Calendar https://kwpeace.ca/ to keep abreast of Waterloo Region Peace and Justice events/