Monday, May 27, 2013

They Will Not Rest Though Poppies Grow

I'm ashamed to say that in the town where I live now, Memorial Day is nothing more than a three day weekend known for BBQ and retail sales. Aside from some flags here and there, it might pass with no remembrance at all. 

But  thirty country miles away,  my hometown remembers.  There, they mark the names of the fallen with crosses.  

They start on the north end of Main Street
and line the road every twenty feet or so, 
all the way out of town. 

Cross after cross and cross.  

Some decorated with flowers from a family member.

All decorated with flags from a grateful nation. 

On my last post, I remarked that the poppy was the traditional flower of Memorial Day, and  I shared part of the poem that inspired the tradition. It's among the Duchess's favorites, one she's fond of reciting on days like today.  In our home, it was as familiar as The Night Before Christmas.  It's a short poem, but one that I think is worth sharing ... and then sharing again...  because it's far more than just a poignant bunch of words.  

It's not a tribute; it's a charge. It wasn't written to the fallen soldier. It was written from him, and it was written to all of us.   

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 years ago 
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunsets 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 you break faith with those who die
We will not rest, though poppies grow

In Flanders Fields.

I wonder sometimes how our fallen patriots would judge our torch bearing today. I wonder if they would find  us faithful. Oh, I have no doubt that they would be proud of the soldiers of the field. Generation after generation, the American soldier has carried the torch well.

But what about the rest of us?

There are two kinds of torch bearing, after all. There's the kind that takes it across the world into the desert or the jungle, and then there is the kind that is supposed to carry the torch at home. Have they found us faithful? 

The battle never has been against a people after all. We didn't fight the British, or the Germans or the Japanese. We fought an ideology.  We fought the freedom fight against tyranny and every form of -ism behind which it was trying to hide.    


And  fascism and imperialism and socialism...

And communism...

And terrorism... and radicalism...
The list goes on.  Thank God the crosses don't as yet.

 The -isms change, but the goal is the same.
 They all seek to create a government over the people
 instead of by the people and for the people,
and create in that government a whole new god.

If we settle for it,
Or make excuses for it,
Or, God help us, begin to embrace it
and call that evil good, 

We break faith with those who die, even if we never set foot on a battlefield.

And they will not rest, though poppies grow,
in Flanders Fields. 

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