Published in the Chronicle Herald, November 1992
by Peter Davison
As another remembrance day passes and the veterans are honored for
their sacrifice during humanities wars of this century we recall the prophetic
and passionate poem written by John McCrae. Everytime I read In Flanders
Fields the despair and senselessness of war embraces my heart. I, of course,
very much need to hear McCrae's final verse in which he challenges all
"Take up the quarrel with the foe
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high..."
Sadly, however, I realize how the meaning of these powerful words
have been distorted to, in fact, justify the violence of nations.
John McCrae wrote this poem from a tiny first aid dugout during a lull
in the shelling in 1915. From there he could see his friends grave, who had
recently been killed at Ypres, among the other white crosses and red poppies.
He told a Canadian chaplain that "the foe" referred to in his poem was not the
Germans but rather the spirit of warfare and the thrown torch in the same
verse symbolizes the desire to end all wars.
With this interpretation it is consistent to me why patriotic Canadians
challenge and defy the government of our country when we go to war, as we
did in the Persian Gulf. In fact, it also makes sense why so many Canadians are
outraged that we are about to spend $4.3 billion in the preparation for war by
getting attack helicopters.
Surely as humanity stands on the threshold of the 21st century we can
catch the torch and carry it onward as symbol that we have rejected the spirit
of warfare. I believe it is only then that we will not have broken faith with
those that have died in war and they shall sleep knowing humanity will never
again send young men to die for causes where politics failed.