Volume 92, Issue 38
Wednesday, November 11, 1998
Don't let Canadian history die
Wearing a poppy is a simple, passive symbol which allows people to show their respect for those who sacrificed their lives in war. However, by looking around Western's campus, it appears respect for those who have suffered is sorely lacking.
It is disgusting that at an institution of higher learning, the importance of history and its ramifications are quickly disappearing. In 50 years will we even wear poppies? As war veterans pass away, memories of war are being buried with them and future generations appear to view a reflection on the past as a waste of time.
There is little doubt society is in need of a history lesson.
The poppy became the universal symbol of remembrance after World War I. During the war, the chalk soils of Flanders field became rich in lime, due to the battles and bloodshed which occured on the field, allowing the popaver rhoeas or poppy, to flourish.
Although the poppy and its relation to war was first introduced by a writer during the Napoleonic wars of the early 19th century, it became a common symbol of remembrance in 1921. Madame Guerin, a French woman, sold handmade poppies to raise money for destitute children in France, as well as to remember those who died in the war. In 1921 distribution began in Canada.
The poppy is no longer about remembering. How can we remember? Students are often too young to feel any of the ravages of war, but by wearing a poppy it is making an effort, small as it may be, to show respect for the 114,000 Canadian soldiers who have died in war. Soldiers who never got the chance to grow up.
Everyone's schedule is busy. However, if you can, take some time out of your day and make an active effort to show you care. Read a book. Learn something about the incredible Canadian victory on April 9, 1917, when 100,000 Canadian soldiers captured Vimy Ridge. Visit one of the many monuments in London, where tributes will be held all day. Feel the emotion of veterans whose tears tell the story of their anguish.
At the very least wear a poppy today and take a minute to read and reflect on the poem written by Lt.-Col. John McCrae, a Canadian doctor, in World War I. McCrae's famous short poem, "In Flanders Fields," was scribbled down while he was on the line at Ypres in 1915 and would be the words which helped many soldiers survive the pressure of war. Don't let history die. It is the least you can do.
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