How are we holding high the torch today?

By Elizabeth Lefebvre| comments | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare
blog War and Peace

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.

Perhaps it’s just my Belgian heritage and pride in all things even peripherally related to the motherland, or else it could be that as a child, the last stanza of this poem was usually recited around my house whenever the Montreal Canadiens made a run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but I’ve always loved In Flanders Fields, penned by John McCrae in 1915 at the Second Battle of Ypres.

I thought of this poem as it’s getting to be Memorial Day—a holiday that to many people marks the start of the summer, the first day that pools and beaches open in much of the Midwest, the start of the French Open or the Indy 500, or the perfect day for grilling and relaxing.

How are we holding the torch high today? The third stanza of the poem was used as a slogan to sell war bonds and as a recruiting call during the rest of World War I. However, I think we can find in it a different call today.

Recently, we’ve been arguing about our budget priorities amid a monstrous national deficit. At the center of debate lies a question about funding for our military. To me, the best way that we can hold the torch high is by striving for policies and trying to live lifestyles that limit war, death, and destruction. Do we "break faith" by steering money away from our military? Or do we do so by continuing to turn to war as an answer?

See also: The wages of war: The steep price of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan

Flickr photo cc by _Skender_