Monday, November 12, 2007


I'm interrupting my story for what I really did today, Sunday November 11th. It happens that I was back in Canada.

I went to a Remembrance Day ceremony at a public cenotaph. I realized as I dressed to go, that the symbolic poppy I had donated for had fallen off somewhere, so I went without one. The cenotaph was about fifteen blocks away, so I walked. As I arrived at the park, a child who had found a poppy on the ground was giving it to a uniformed veteran. The soldier saw I didn't have one, so gave it to me. I thanked him, explaining that mine always seem to fall off. He joked that they grease the pins so that they will.

Last year some readers told me that they didn't wear poppies, they wore flags, or yellow ribbons, and seemed to think they meant the same thing. There's nothing wrong with those symbols, but they aren't the same symbol, so I will reiterate.

Wear a flag to show that you support your country's efforts in an international war. (Or in a sports event, or just to show pride in your country.)

Wear a yellow ribbon because someone you care about is away at war and you hope and pray they come home safely.

Wear a poppy to remember all those who have gone to war for their countries. All countries.

I think about those who went to war and never came back, those who went to war and came back with parts missing, those who came back seemingly whole but broken inside, and those who somehow not only survived but became stronger for the experience; they came back and went straight to work making the country they had fought to defend a better place.

I think of those who signed up because they wanted to defend their countries, those who signed up because their friends were, those who signed up because their government promised them education or other opportunities in return, and of those who went because the government sent them a piece of paper saying it was their turn to go. I read in the paper of a soldier who went to war because he accidentally shot a neighbour's cow, and was given a choice between jail and enlistment.

Wearing a poppy and remembering those who served in the armed forces is not a political statement. It neither supports nor condemns any war nor any soldier's choice. It just acknowledges that they went, and the donation funds help veterans.

It's always cold and windy on Remembrance Day. The children whine and complain from cold and boredom, but I am glad their parents thought it was important enough to bring them to the memorial.