99 years ago, on November 11, the “war to end all wars” ended.
The poppies at our local stores have attracted my 4 year old’s attention.
“What are they for?”
Oh man. How do I explain this?
“They’re to remember the wars. And all the kids who went to fight in them and never came home.”
Thus follows a series of conversations about war and guns and fighting and who are the good guys and who are the bad guys. And I think I could make it nice and simple for him by saying, “we’re honouring the memory of the good guys who fought and died to keep us all safe from the bad guys”, but I’m terribly afraid that that kind of reductionist simplistic thinking has gotten our beautiful planet to a very bad place. Because people just don’t seem to have outgrown that. So maybe the stories we tell our 4 year olds are our only chance at evolving that dialogue…
And so I say something more rambling, like, “well, we sent our kids off to war and told them they were the good guys and gave them guns and told them to shoot the bad guys, and the other side sent their kids off to war and gave them guns and told them to shoot the bad guys, so it’s really kind of complicated. In the end, a lot of kids who died, and I think there were really just a handful of bad guys, on both sides…” but then I start worrying that maybe I’ve got my history wrong.
I don’t want to push any propaganda on anyone.
And I DO want to honour the sacrifice and service of all those people who stopped the shadow of fascism from creeping across the land. Who gave themselves to serve something greater than themselves. Who acted in ways that deprived them of a beautiful fulfilling life, so that I can be luxuriating in this one, of mine…
But I also want my kid to realise that we all have a little bit of good guy in us, and we have a little bit of bad guy in us, and like the parable of the two wolves says, the one that grows is the one we feed. And as exciting as he finds guns, (weirdly, perturbingly,) I want him to aspire to be a peacemaker, to be someone who has the strength to de-escalate a conflict, instead of blowing things up.
It’s all a bit too big for me, really.
But today he bought a poppy and pinned it on his jacket and he wore it quite proudly. And we borrowed a book from the library about the poppies, and read On Flanders fields, and when we stand out in the cold on November 11 and remember the moment that peace finally fell, and I bawl my eyes out, as I always do, when people gather together, I know I will uttering prayers to the Great Intelligence for peacepeacepeace. And fewer guns. And for this remarkable blessed opportunity we have to honour the past and to shape the future, at the same time.