The world can certainly do better than this. Here's why.

Thursday, November 22

22 November 1963

There's always more money to be made and there's always more people to kill. Any who might upset the apple cart, woe to them. Dwight Eisenhower warned of the influence of the Military Industrial Complex. John Kennedy thought to interrupt its erstwhile march. What'd he get? Head shot.

I never believed in the magic bullet, the Warren Commission's official explanation of the events leading up to and including 22 November 1963. It's like the tooth fairy and Santa Claus. Reassuring, but thoroughly irrational. In 1963, there was a single cameraman in Dallas that captured that radical shift in American history that was the moment Kennedy was shot. Assassination? Surely. Conspiracy? Certainly. Cubans and other Red Menaces? Hmm... not so clear cut. Crazed lone gunman? Sure, why not.

I never believed in the 9|11 Commission's official story either. Again, like the tooth fairy and Santa Claus, it's reassuring, but thoroughly irrational. In 44 years, nothing has changed. In 2001 there was a single cameraman that captured that radical shift in American history that was the moment that WTC2 was struck. Intentional strike on America? Surely. Conspiracy? Certainly. Al-Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein and other international terrorist menaces? Hmm... not so clear cut. Crazed 19 hijackers with box cutters? Sure, why not (I heard that at least seven of them are still alive).

There were those that never believed that the Reichstag fire was set by Communists. They were crushed in the rush for homeland security and other Fascist ideals. Is it any different now? Is it any different when the concept of withdrawal from Vietnam led to a Presidential assassination? Is the fear of withdrawal pitted against the fear of assassination by weapons manufacturers, oil companies, the federal reserve, the US military, and other war profiteers what is really driving G.W. Bush's administration? Sure, why not.

Remember John F. Kennedy today. There has been no force at the helm of America since him that stood against the darkest fears held by Eisenhower -- that economy and the men with guns could supersede "the pursuit of life, liberty, and justice for all." Except, maybe, Jimmy Carter. Certainly, all presidents have made the best of bad situations. Some have made better than others. Some have pimped the nation for all its worth.

There's less than a year until a new helmsman is chosen, and a little more than a year until he or she takes office, watch closely. Be informed. And, don't buy anything on Black Friday.

Friday, November 9

Afghanistan, 11 November

I remember the atrocities of war by recognizing that they are STILL happening. I don't split hairs just because Afghanistan doesn't fit my neat picture of the poppy. I admit, freely and openly, that warfare and the poppy are as inextricably linked in 2007 as in 1918. The generational gap that exists between then and now tells as much the story of warfare as it does the role of the poppy.

Warfare was once conducted as a conflict between great powers, as it was in the First World War. Men went to war to serve their country. Flags flew and each side knew precisely the conflict at hand. Now, warfare is multifaceted, privately contracted, and much less tidy an affair. Warfare has evolved. It is an old concept to consider only one side of a conflict as, with increasing frequency, the fallen are not warriors but civilians. They are people, like me, simply trying to live life and to accommodate realities as forced upon them.

I remember the fallen soldiers of my nation by recognizing those that are currently engaged in Afghanistan; where poppies are at the crux of the conflict. The man pictured, presumably a poppy farmer, bears no ill will to anyone. He does not grow poppies to buy arms. His ends are not to supply an insurgency or an oppressive regime or any international terrorist organization. He grows poppies to eat, to feed his family, and to keep the Taliban and tribal warlords at bay. He wants a safe place to live. The only way he CAN do this is by farming poppies.

Consider that poppies are the ONLY cash crop available to Afghan farmers. If they don't grow the poppies, or grow anything else, they die of starvation, as there is no market for their product, or are killed by the Taliban/Warlords for their defiance. When was the last time you saw "Product of Afghanistan" on your purchase? If they do grow the poppies; they face the double threat of crop destruction by the Allied Forces and crushing force of the Taliban/Warlord complex.

If, for example, the poppy crop was bought for legitimate purposes (Morphine or other opiates), or -- better yet -- if heroin was decriminalized, its illicit market value would, conceivably, decline. Then, the Taliban/Warlords would not have as lucrative a product and could not perpetuate warfare as effectively as the current situation permits.

That the poppies fund the Taliban/Warlords is, in fact, incidental. That they are grown in a 30 year-old warzone is not. That Canada is engaged in a deadly conflict in Afghanistan is not. I remember. We went to Afghanistan to fight Al Qaeda, to support the US, and to reach out to a subjugated nation. Now, we are fighting the Taliban, holding the Alamo in place of the Americans, and are rebuilding a nation that has known nothing but war for thirty years. To deny a parallel between Flanders Fields and the fields of Afghanistan is a disservice to our current Canadian Armed Forces. It is as severe a disservice as the "mission" under the pretense of the "global War on Terror" that being conducted at present. It is as severe a disservice as remembering wars' conduct at Remembrance Day, Memorial Day, Armistice Day, D-Day, Hiroshima Day, Pearl Harbor Day, or -- recently -- on 11 September 2001.

Yes. The poppy is a symbol of remembering the atrocities of war. The poppy is a symbol of those fallen in warfare. And, yes. The poppy is used to fund the Taliban insurgency against the occupation of Afghanistan. Funds generated by the poppy are used to commit acts of violence against my countrymen. But, that is precisely the point. It is STILL happening. People are still dying in armed conflicts the world over. In 1918, "the war to end all wars" had ended and the Great generation asserted "never again." Never again would the scourge of warfare cost the lives of so many. It is this that is marked on 11 November of each year. And yet, it continues. Some call it human nature. Some call it business as usual. The more that things change, the more they remain the same. The notion of the poppy, here, has changed in my mind. I can only hope that it has changed in yours. Perhaps, then, the changes that must happen -- the most difficult and painful changes -- might begin.