Killing the White Poppy

As always, humans are up in arms about stuff right now. The thing I’ve been reading about today is the white poppy.

Image from torontosun.com
Image from torontosun.com

Traditionally, the red poppy is worn to remember and honour war veterans, both living and dead. In the past, I’ve worn a red poppy to indicate that I am thinking prayerfully of soldiers, like my grandpa, who did what they felt they had to do, and experienced things no human should have to experience, in the pursuit of an end to conflict.

Every year on Remembrance Day, I also think about the others who have made (and continue to make) sacrifices in times of war. All those who die or are broken or see their lives torn apart. They are innumerable.

That is what I understand the white poppy to be about: the recognition that peace is the goal. That war equals tragedy. Lest we forget.

In the past few years, I’ve been aware of another belief: that by honouring those other people, the civilians, or by expressing the wish to make peace a priority, I am disrespecting the soldiers and veterans.

I am not wearing a white poppy… because I do not want my message to be mistaken.

The “I Remember for Peace” campaign at Ceasefire.ca has elicited many heartfelt messages from people who wish to respect soldiers and veterans and also honour their pursuit of peace. Inevitably, there are people who feel it’s appropriate to add messages like these:

“White poppies are bull shit and everyone involved in this should be shot.”

“wear a white poppy? expect a white loogy in return for spitting in the face of every soldier who sacrificed their blood on the battle fields so you can have the rights and freedoms you enjoy today. I will gladly spit in the face of anyone I see wearing a white poppy and I will be encouraging others to do the same.”

Incredibly, these people believe that they are showing respect. I am not wearing a red poppy this year because I know these people are wearing them. Again, I do not want my message to be mistaken.

Every year since I’ve been blogging, I have posted on Remembrance Day (and Veterans Day). This year, I am giving the floor to veterans. Even so, I know there will be people who read this and want to spew ugliness over it. I’ve decided that tomorrow, I am just going to be silent, and show my respect that way.

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The soldier above all others prays for peace, for it is the soldier who must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.

– Douglas MacArthur

Any soldier worth his salt should be antiwar. And still there are things worth fighting for.

– Norman Schwarzkopf

I am tired and sick of war. Its glory is all moonshine. It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, for vengeance, for desolation. War is hell.

– William Tecumseh Sherman

An honorable Peace is and always was my first wish! I can take no delight in the effusion of human Blood; but, if this War should continue, I wish to have the most active part in it.

– John Paul Jones

No one hates war like a soldier hates war.

– Tommy Franks

War must be, while we defend our lives against a destroyer who would devour all; but I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend.
– J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers

This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.
– Dwight D. Eisenhower

We know how to win wars. We must learn now to win peace…
– Stephen E. Ambrose, Band of Brothers

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Six weeks old on Remembrance Day

Dear Baby A,

Today, you are six weeks old! Probably the fastest six weeks of my whole life, even though I’m trying very hard to cherish every second, to make this time last longer.

Six weeks ago, you were sleeping angelically through your first day of life, as many people (who had already loved you for a long time) passed you around and admired you. You were understandably exhausted: it must really be tough going from a warm, dark, hushed, never-hungry place, through a very squeezy tunnel, to a cold, bright, loud place where people will not stop touching you, and where you’re suddenly expected to get food into your tummy using your mouth. That’s the kind of day that would really take it out of a person. (I was pretty tired myself.)

Mama and baby A on her first night in the world
You and me, on that first night.

Baby daughter, I am so excited to be your Mama.

I get lost in your deep, wonderful eyes several times a day.

I am fascinated by every little expression that flits across your face – awake or asleep.

When you smile, my whole soul smiles back.

Your tiny hands are so exquisite, I almost can’t stand it.

My favourite thing is listening to you sigh with each breath, your face getting sleepy, as you drink from my breast.

Even when you awaken too early, or cry with what seems like excessive drama (usually about being in your car seat), I know you are just learning how to be. It’s my job – mine and Daddy’s – to guide you and teach you the skills you need to cope with life. We are working on it as best we can.

Last night, I had a dream about our family, but it was different. Daddy and I were visiting somewhere far away – with two little boys. E was there, and so was his little brother, who was wearing a little cowboy hat and a diaper (and nothing else). They were both running around and playing, hiding from each other behind corners. They were beautiful, and it was fun.

I’m glad I just enjoyed that dream. I’m glad my mind never remembered that it couldn’t be real, that E’s brother – your brother, too – never will run or play or hide around corners. At least, not with us.

Amazingly, that was the only time in my memory that I’ve ever dreamed about Sebastian.

When I woke up, I remembered right away what the constellation of our family looks like in real life. I grieved, because it was so sweet and fulfilling to see him, and I don’t know when I might dream of him again.

But I don’t wish for that family from my dream, even though it made me so happy. Because if Sebastian were here, precious Baby A, you would not be… and that is a situation I can’t possibly wish for. The two families could never have been one and the same.

It’s confusing, but also simple. I love all three of you so much, with love unique for each of you. I miss your ageless brother, as I always will, but I’m immeasurably glad I don’t have to miss you. For us, you are joy, in adorable human form.

Today is Remembrance Day. It’s a day when we think and talk about war, and honour the sacrifices people have had to make during wars. I think a lot about this day, and have written about these things many times – about what remembrance means to me as a Quaker, what it means to students I’ve taught, and what it may mean to those who have lost children to war.

Your great-grandfathers, from three different countries, were involved in World War II. Today I’ve found myself thinking of them, and their wives and children, and mostly just feeling selfishly grateful. I’m grateful that your Daddy is here with us, rather than an unknown number of miles or months or years from his next visit home… that I’m not a married single mom, even temporarily… or unthinkably worse, a widow… that I don’t often worry about you and E being orphaned… that I’ve never had to worry about having enough food to feed you… that I’m not wondering whether a bomb will destroy us, or our home, or other people we love.

(Writing all this, I’m reminded that Hurricane Sandy victims have much in common with those who have experienced war. I’m exceedingly grateful we were not exposed to Sandy first-hand, either.)

Sweet girl, we are so fortunate to live when and where we do, and to have each other. I hope someday you will understand what a wondrous blessing you are to this family.

Baby A at six weeks old
Six weeks old

Love, love, love, love you, for always.

Your Mama.

 

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The Gaza Doctor shall not hate – even if he deserves to.

Last week I attended a talk given by a man named Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, also known as “the Gaza doctor”. Before I went, everything I knew about this man came from the flier advertising the event:

Distinguished physician Izzeldin Abuelaish MD, MPH was the first Palestinian doctor to receive a staff position at an Israeli hospital, where he treated both Israeli and Palestinian patients. He is the author of the bestselling book I Shall Not Hate, which chronicles his life growing up in Gaza and the development of his outlook on life, health and peace in Israel and Palestine. Dr. Abuelaish’s three daughters were killed during the War on Gaza in January 2009, minutes before he was to speak live on an Israeli TV program. Having his resolve to live without hate affirmed, he has dedicated his work to health and wellbeing in the world. He also established “Daughters for Life Foundation” in his daughters’ honour to promote the education of young women scholars.”

the gaza doctor dr. izzeldin abuelaish

That was enough to make me want to hear him speak. It’s not often that I’ve had the chance to hear from someone who has an actual grasp of what peace should mean. Quakers talk a lot about peace, but in Canada there are not many of us (thankfully) who have personally experienced real, actual… NOT peace.

At the talk, we were given a more thorough introduction, including excerpts from the video below. (The first five minutes will tell you a lot.)

Dr. Abuelaish took the stage as our ears still echoed with the sounds of his own sobbing, originally heard via cell phone on national Israeli TV three years ago, only moments after Israeli bombs ripped through his own home, killing three of his eight children and one of his nieces. His composure, when he reached the podium, was remarkable – but not, I think, completely intact. Continue reading “The Gaza Doctor shall not hate – even if he deserves to.”

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