Friday, November 11, 2022

Special Feature: Poems Selected for SocioPolitical Reflection on the Meaning(s) of Remembrance Day

War does not determine who is right – only who is left. -- Bertrand Russell

Perhaps the greatest tribute we can pay today to those who served, sacrificed, and died in war is to dedicate ourselves to finding other means than warfare to achieve our goals and settle our disagreements. --  Karl Nerenberg, "On Remembrance Day we can honour those who sacrificed without glorifying war"                                                                  
                                                                                        shifting shadows
                                                                                        on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
                                                                                        Remembrance Day 

                                                                                        Chen-ou Liu

The core meaning of what "remembrance" is very personal to so many people and what they've gone through. Do they have family members who served? Did they serve? But over time, Remembrance Day has become a performance of patriotism and nationalism other than a true Remembrance.

-- Dr. Walter Callaghan, PhD candidate in Medical Anthropology at the University of Toronto and a veteran who served in the Canadian Armed Forces, who does not wear a poppy because he believes the politicization of poppies has diminished what the poppy means to them.

And according to  Dr. Callaghan, the white poppy predates the red poppy. "The first instance of the white poppy dates back to the British-Russian Crimean War. The white poppy was a commemoration of the dead on both sides... It's not completely anti-war but it stands for peace. The idea is that we can't, as a humanity, keep doing this." 

The following is a set of selected poems for you to rethink the meaning(s), of Remembrance Day (For further discussion, see Yahoo!News, Nov. 10: "Do you wear a poppy for Remembrance Day?: Some call it a 'performance of patriotism', others a symbol of peace"): 

Collateral Damage for Susan Sontag

white poppy
pinned to her son's first suit
Remembrance Day

Inside the top drawer of her husband's wooden desk, there is an old photo album. It starts with pictures of toy trucks, toy soldiers, toy tanks, and other delights of boys from the neighborhood playing in the sunlight. It ends with the picture of a new military cemetery with a row of white crosses in winter mist.

Chen-ou Liu

fall leaves
burying toy soldiers
her small son

Fonda Bell Miller

talking to the tree
outside the window
about rain, about the war

Marlina Rinzen

news the war to end all wars rolling

Helen Buckingham
(Note: "The war to end all wars" was a term for the First World War. Originally idealistic, it is now used mainly sardonically)

all that remains --
dreams of jungle,
sand, sky

Marilyn Hazelton

the call that says
he’s gone ...
two petals left
on the last poppy

Kirsten Cliff Elliot

watercolor poppies
blowing across the field ...
is it so hard
to learn from history

Rebecca Drouilhet

To conclude today's Special Feature post, I would like to share with you the following haiku written on Remembrance Day, a day celebrated in our consumer society where there is a growing gap between the rich and the poor:

Thank God it's Friday!
the shadows of shoppers pass
over a homeless vet


FYI: Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (Canada), Wikipedia: The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (French: Tombe du Soldat Inconnu) is a tomb situated before the National War Memorial in Confederation Square, Ottawa, Ontario. The tomb is dedicated to Canadian service members, and holds the remains of an unidentified Canadian soldier who died in France during the First World War; selected from a Commonwealth War Grave near Vimy, in the vicinity where the Battle of Vimy Ridge took place...

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