“In Flanders Fields”
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the dead, short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
Lt. Col. John McCrae
Much has been made of American born Ontario NDP Candidate Laura Kaminker’s old blog entry opining about the wearing of Poppy’s by Canadians,
“When our masters give the signal, everyone can take off the fake poppy — made with prison labour — and create a bit more landfill. And another annual ritual of war glorification comes to a close.”
Written by Laura Kaminker in 2014 on a blog she started after abandoning her country of birth because it invaded Iraq.
I am a combat Veteran of the Canadian Forces. Like my father before me who fought WW2. As a member of the 2PPCLI Battle Group in Croatia I helped win the Secretary General of the United Nations Citation and the Governor General of Canada’s Commendation for halting ethnic cleansing in the Medak Pocket, Croatia. An ancestor of mine named Maj. General Sir Sam Steele actually led the first Canadian forces to leave for Europe in 1914 in those famous 13 ocean liners. I will not defend her opinions but I will absolutely defend her right to voice them, to the death in fact.
I don’t offer this as hyperbole, that was pretty much the oath I took and upheld under fire. I absolutely understand the sense of outrage but I would ask that if your thinking of letting this sway your vote that you consider the following. The women and the men who died in this country’s wars were motivated by neither blind jingoism nor by a desire for conquest. They were motivated by a desire for a better world. A world where the rights of individuals prevailed. They sacrificed for their communities and in the hope their children would have better lives. None of them were motivated by the hope that for a few days a year people would add a plastic flower to their lapels.
The only real and meaningful act of remembrance we can offer to those who have given their lives for Canada is to continually and ceaselessly strive to make the actual goals of their sacrifice reality. We must continue to relentlessly work toward a society where all enjoy absolutely equal access to its wealth and opportunity. A society where no-one is condemned to poverty and despair. Those have always been the goals of the New Democratic Party.
I would return briefly to Ms Kaminker and her opinions. She has the absolute right to reject the Poppy. She has the absolute right to complain about the Army’s inclusion in sporting events. That right was sanctified in blood. She did not offer this opinion as a candidate of the NDP, nor does it reflect the policies of the OnNDP.
I will end by saying that what Ms Kaminker really needs isn’t vilification but education. Somewhere in researching for her citizenship test she missed the fact that our Armed Forces do not represent a world spanning empire, that we do not sally them forth to dominate other countries for our corporations. We do not as citizens share the mindless jingoism of her imperial birthplace. When our citizens stand on cold November days in front of cenotaphs across this vast nation they do not do so to celebrate our dominance in war, but to recommit our nation to peace. When our schoolchildren recite John McCrae’s famous line to “take up our quarrel with the foe,” they are not being motivated to stand against the German empire but to take up the quarrel with the horror of war itself. That is why thousands of us have proudly worn Canada’s flag and blue berets in every corner of the world in an imperfect attempt to take up the “torch” of human advancement from our fore-bearers “failing hands” and “hold it high” as a light for all humanity to see. As citizens we can feed its light by ensuring our society is a beacon of tolerance and justice. To ever strive to make this nation proof to all that peoples of different races, religions, ethnicity and backgrounds can live together in peaceful community. So I defend absolutely and without reserve her right to wear her peace symbol and would offer that by running for and supporting the policies of the NDP she is, in her own way, committing to the only real act of remembrance there is.