It was Remembrance Day yesterday on November 11 and the old guys were out in the malls selling poppies. Coincidentally it was the day that a dozen would-be Muslim terrorists were arrested in Sydney and Melbourne.[And in case any of y'all are wondering about the provenance of his moniker, "assiniboine" in the comboxes, wonder no more:
The old fellows were selling poppies at five bucks a pop and were extremely hostile. Awkward. Tricky time to sound American, as I do to anyone with a less acute ear than my astonishingly keen friend S ("Oh, North of England! Where precisely?" "Well South African isn't it. Durban? Cape Town?" "Canadian -- but Western, isn't it! I had some people in from Ontario yesterday...sure can spot 'em, isn't it!" [:) -- "isn't it" is ineradicable!].
But to return to the infelicitous encounter with the veterans. "American bullies like you know nothing about Remembrance Day. Go to hell! You guys don't know anything about freedom; your idea of 'freedom' is everyone to be enslaved to America!" I of course point out "In Flanders Fields" on the card that the poppy comes on and recite the whole thing, even the omitted bloodthirsty third verse -- as every Canadian on earth can do -- and point out, "Sorry, not everyone is as they might seem. I'm Canadian. And we lost more young men than anyone else -- ANYONE else -- in World War I and we choose our wars judiciously. Meanwhile, it's these young guys with me right now who are going to get blown apart in another war ("Quick: I've forked over five bucks for each of you: now put on these poppies, eh?"). Mr Bush's "War on Terror" doesn't seem to count with the Vets.
Perhaps we can figure out an alternate reading of verse 3. Doesn't need to mean Germans in World War I.
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 days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset 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 ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
The Assiniboine are an aboriginal tribe on the prairies; the District of Assiniboia in the Northwest Territories became the southern half of the province of Saskatchewan; there is Mount Assiniboine in the Canadian Rockies, the town of Assiniboia in southern Saskatchewan (a godforsaken hole, according to Northrop Frye, whose one and only stint as a practising clergyman was there in the depths of the Great Depression) and the Assiniboine River runs through Winnipeg, Manitoba.Said contributor is a native of Saskatchewan.]