Ottawa, Canada: a photo of the recent cabinett swearing-in ceremony shows smiling politicians wearing plastic poppies; ditto for news anchors and weather personalities on TeeVee. Riding through town, one can spot the emblem on hats, collars, and business suits. The eye delights in seeing dots of bright red amidst the fading light of autumn.
But I wonder (and this is my inner cynic speaking) how many poppy wearers are doing so because it’s the thing to do. How conscious are we of the reason for this commemoration, namely soldiers who’ve died; not in this war or that, neither our war nor theirs. All wars!
The politicians above are members of the very government which decreed our participation in a “cruel and destructive” war in Afghanistan (against the will of the majority of Canadians) and actively supports a lucrative arms industry. Will they remember when they pin on the poppy in the morning? May the words of “A poem against war” by Karen Karpowich ©2003 be reminder to all of us:
Near the band shell are Elms planted
for heroes of a forgotten war.
The trees create a thick canopy.
It’s cool. No grass grows.
A narrow path is pounded out by joggers
who pass never noticing the plaques
filled with names.
A child might say this place is haunted.
I only feel its sadness.
Young men who fought and died
never knowing what it is to live.
I walk here each day.
My pace quickens at its dark center.