Write to Renew - One of our previous graduates, the talented Jay Nahani, is leading us in a Write to Renew workshop June 14th. For writers and non-writers alike, this one-d...
Nov 11, 2011
I'm not wearing a poppy today. It's not that I don't want to remember and lament the needless loss of life of the fallen young soldiers. It's that in this national day of wearing poppies and simultaneously mourning/glorifying their deaths, we narrow the focus exclusively to the soldiers and forget the many more victims of war.
According to a 2001 study by the International Committee of the Red Cross, the civilian-to-soldier death ratio in wars fought since the mid-20th century has been 10:1, meaning ten civilian deaths for every soldier death.(1) So for every poppy I wear to mourn one soldier's death, I should wear another 10 flowers for the innocent lives lost.
And what flower should I wear for the innocent children who still pick up grenades hidden inside dolls? For the farmer who loses a leg to a mine in her own fields? For the women and girls who get raped and used as instruments of war? For the refugees who've lost their homes, their farms, everything they've ever built and relied upon to survive and fulfill their dreams?
And what plant would suffice as an emblem for the loss to society when so much money goes into the war machine instead of social services, destroying instead of building? For those children who grow educated in terror instead of in school? For the destroyed or never-developed infrastructure that the rural poor could have used to build a better life for their families?
But the poppy doesn't remember all this. According to "Help for Heroes," the poppy is "to show their support for the Armed Forces and their families." Even my beloved, progressive MP Jean Crowder has an online banner that spouts out the usual "Remembering the sacrifice and courage of veterans on November 11."
I guess Jean has to say that to stay in office, but I don't. As long as wearing a poppy is meant solely in honour of soldiers, I will not wear one. Instead, I'll wear a whole garden in remembrance of the loss to all of mankind through war, and weave a lifelong wreath of flowers that says Never Again.
Last year I mused about remembering all soldiers, not just our country's - another facet of this selective memory.
(1) Sabrina Tavernise and Andrew W. Lehren, A Grim Portrait of Civilian Deaths in Iraq, New York Times 22-10-2010) Note that other sources show a lower proportion - World War II is estimated to have killed "only" 2 or 3 civilians for each combatant.