11 September 2017
Another dark and dismal Saturday morning at parkrun was brightened a little by the golden autumn foliage on the Common. It feels as if the leaves are clinging on for longer this year, maybe because we haven’t had too much windy weather yet. There wasn’t too much time to hang around admiring the show this Saturday though, because we had a remembrance service to go to.
Usually I’d go to the military cemetery at Royal Victoria Country Park to observe the silence at eleven o’clock. There’s no formal service there but a few old soldiers always gather by the memorial and I like the peace and quiet of the trees along with the walk along the shore. Today though, parkrun meant we were already in town and getting to the country park would have been too much of a rush. We had a quick coffee in the Hawthorns and then walked down to the Cenotaph to meet up with CJ, who’d made his own way there.
There has been a movement in recent years to politicise the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. White poppies have joined the red. They are called peace poppies. The rhetoric around them seems anything but peaceful to me though. Much of it seems to infer those who wear red poppies are supporting or promoting war. Certainly the money from them goes to the British Leigion, a charity supporting veterans who are now in need. The white poppies are made commercially and the money raised goes to fund the education work of the Peace Research and Education Trust the white poppy makers. Forgive me if I seem cynical, but it sounds as if it is more a money generating propaganda exercise than a charity.
Most people would prefer to live in peace. In fact I would call myself a pacifist. Sadly, there are times when it simply isn’t possible. When our freedom and safety is threatened by tyrants or zealots, when megalomaniacs decide to set up death camps to rid the world of those who disagree with them, we have two choices. We can take the non violent peaceful path, surrender and let those who threaten us or others have their way, or we can fight the evil and the injustice.
As the years pass the collective memory of living through a world war grows dim. The horror of an invading army forcibly taking what they want, the rounding up of the disabled and the ethnically different and taking them to camps to experiment on and exterminate is forgotten. Some even try to deny it happened at all. It did happen though. I have met those it happened to and seen the pain in their eyes. It seems only right to honour those who made the ultimate sacrifice to save them and those who join our armed forces and pledge to do the same should it ever happen again.
Sadly, while we were observing the silence today, one of the few who feel honouring and remembering is wrong chose to shout obscenities and spit at us from the other side of the road. It did not seem like a very peaceful act or a very brave one. Luckily for him, this is a free country, thanks to the fallen we were honouring with silence.
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