Today I saw the pictures below of how Liverpool is lighting its buildings in preparation for Remembrance Sunday on 11 November. It’s not particularly clever or high tech but it moved me.
In Britain, we use the poppy as a remembrance for the war dead. It comes from a poem, “In Flanders Fields” written at a funeral of a friend who died at Ypres, by Canadian physician Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae which reads (at least in the handwritten original version) as:
In Flanders fields the poppies grow
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.
“Lest we forget” is a phrase that often accompanies the poppy. It is both a warning and an exhortation, challenging us to remember those who died.
The phrase comes originally Kipling’s “Recessional”, a piece of poetry I’ve never liked and which, with each passing year, seems to me like the kind of nationalist, Christian, fantasy of self-importance that led to so many men drowning in mud, being blown apart by shells or ripped in two by machine guns so their leaders could count honour as being satisfied.
I believe that, when we listen to the voice of those who died in that pointless slaughter, what we must take care not to forget if we are not to “break faith with us who die” is that WE CANNOT ALLOW THIS TO HAPPEN AGAIN.
This Remembrance Sunday marks the centenary of the end of a war where millions of working men slaughtered one another out of loyalty to Kings and Emperors.
I am angered by the fact that same kind of egotistical, entitled, jingoistic, incompetent upper-class twits who led our young to the slaughter one hundred years ago are now wrapping themselves into nationalist flags once more and trying to undermine the peace that Europe has nurtured for the past sixty years.
If we forget that the vanity of men like these led to the slaughter and maiming of tens of millions of men in a single generation, then we disrespect the memory of the dead and they “shall not sleep, though poppies grow in Flanders fields.”