smackshack: a crude digital self-portrait (Default)
smackshack ([personal profile] smackshack) wrote2011-11-11 04:04 pm

Belated observations from Londinium #3: Remembrance Day

To honor Remembrance Day (aka Veterans Day, aka Armistice Day) I'm going to get a little bit anachronistic with my account of visiting London. I still need to tell the story of Monday, 11/24, but this post is about a bit of Tuesday, 11/25, when Sturdy Helpmeet™ and I toured Westminster Abbey.

For me, the most moving thing in Westminster Abbey is the grave of the Unknown Warrior. It's surrounded by poppies, the same poppies that you'll see sprouting from the buttonholes of British TV presenters if you're the sort of person who watches a lot of British TV. (You know, like British people, or Americans who are obsessed with Doctor Who, Monty Python, Sherlock Holmes, Top Gear...well, you get the picture.)

Anyway, today is 11/11/11, and Sturdy Helpmeet and I were visiting London in late October. Even in late October, the poppies were coming out: on private vehicles, on black cabs, in store fronts, in office windows. You know how Americans start putting out the Thanksgiving crap right after the Fourth of July, and the Christmas crap right after (hell, before) Halloween, and the Valentine's Day crap right after Christmas---but you hardly hear about Memorial Day or Veterans' Day until it's right on top of you? In London the poppies start coming out many weeks in advance of Remembrance Day.

Or...maybe for some people the poppies are always out, just as for some Americans yellow ribbons are always on display. I don't know. I do know that I'm a bit jaded about the yellow ribbons, not because I don't honor veterans but because the sentiment "support our troops" is so often used to justify policies and wars I disagree with. I don't know if people in the UK have a similarly complicated relationship with the poppy.

But weeks before Remembrance Day I  remember noticing the poppies, and I remember thinking at the time that it was a fine and decent thing to display these humble flowers from Flanders Fields so far in advance of the day of commemoration.

So in honor of my grandfather who died in the Pacific War, in honor of my father and other family members who served, and to honor all men and women courageous enough to put their lives on the line for their friends, families, and loved ones, regardless of nation, color, or creed, this is me taking a moment to say thank you in a small (very small) way.

Let's spend the future cultivating gardens, not graves.