Today is Memorial Day in the United States, and so having the day off, I’m doing some writing. This means you get a blog post today!Continue reading “A Fresh Coat of Paint Won’t Cover Old Wounds”
Welcome, friends! The skies have cleared, the coffee’s hot, and it’s shaping up to be a beautiful morning. Continue reading “Saturday Morning Coffee”
I know Memorial Day is technically tomorrow.
But as this is technically also Memorial Day weekend, I’m sharing this poem with you today. Continue reading “A Poem for Memorial Day 2016”
A time for barbecue
A time for beaches
A time for sales
A time for sports
A time for family
It’s also a time for remembrance.
Over the past week, people have been posting images like this on social media:
Now, depending on how long you’ve been reading my blog, this is where I’d post something like “In Flanders Fields” or “Dulce Et Decorum Est” to represent my conflicting views of war.
However, I’ve begun to think differently about Memorial Day.
Yes, men gave their lives.
Yes, we should be grateful for their sacrifice.
But I’ve also begun to ask: what – exactly – did they sacrifice their lives for?
I don’t think those who gave their lives would want us to perpetually mourn.
After all, I sincerely doubt they held Rat’s opinion:
Yes, remember their sacrifice. But they died so we could live normal lives. So that we could hold barbecues on the beach while listening to our preferred sport on the radio with our families. Or whatever your tradition is this weekend.
@TheDemocrats took flak this weekend for posting this:
What I do have a problem with was this being the very first Memorial Day post from the Democratic Party.
Things didn’t get much better with their second and third Memorial Day posts:
Again, this is just my opinion and I understand that this Twitter feed belongs to the Democratic Party and not President Obama, but since one of the President’s roles is Commander in Chief, it only makes sense that the first Memorial Day posts would thank the troops. Maybe that just me.
All this to say: enjoy your Memorial Day how you see fit, but take a moment of silence to remember those who gave their lives for normalcy.
How can I resist sharing a poem on Memorial Day?
This year I’ve selected
For the Fallen Robert Laurence Binyon With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children, England mourns for her dead across the sea. Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit, Fallen in the cause of the free. Solemn the drums thrill: Death august and royal Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres. There is music in the midst of desolation And a glory that shines upon our tears. They went with songs to the battle, they were young, Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow. They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted, They fell with their faces to the foe. They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning We will remember them. They mingle not with their laughing comrades again; They sit no more at familiar tables of home; They have no lot in our labour of the day-time; They sleep beyond England's foam. But where our desires are and our hopes profound, Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight, To the innermost heart of their own land they are known As the stars are known to the Night; As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust, Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain, As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness, To the end, to the end, they remain.
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Yesterday was Veteran’s Day here in the United States, elsewhere called Armistice Day. Originally intended to celebrate the end of World War One, Veteran’s Day now honors all those service personnel still living (both active and retired). For the past 48 hours or so I’ve been reflecting on two poems written during the First World War.
The first – “In Flanders Fields” – was written by Canadian physician John McRae. Its success has made it widely popular, and some credit the poem with popularizing the remembrance poppy. I remember memorizing this poem for a patriotic program in elementary school, and it has stuck with me ever since.
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.
The second poem – “Dulce Et Decorum Est” – was written by Wilfred Owen, a poet I was not introduced to until my college years. If I recall correctly, my freshman speech instructor used it as a dramatic reading. Her impassioned presentation brought Owen’s recollections to life and – I think – began my disillusionment with America’s military complex. It made me realize the reality of war and the myriad complexities involved in recovering from what one has seen, heard, and done in the name of one’s country.
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of disappointed shells that dropped behind.
GAS! Gas! Quick, boys!– An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And floundering like a man in fire or lime.–
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,–
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.