The very phrase, “in Flanders fields” brings to my mind every Remembrance Day ceremony that I have ever been to. Since having been in the Flanders region of Belgium, touring Vimy Ridge and seeing a Commonwealth cemetery, the famous 1915 poem by soldier John McCrae has been on my mind. In the past, I have struggled to understand the poem and I didn’t think much about it through elementary, middle and high school. I read it at Vimy the other day for the first time in probably about five years.
While on this trip and particularly in the last few days, I have been struggling to understand the effects of war on entire cities, regions and countries. Walking over the scarred, defaced, and uneven ground of Belgian farmland helped bring reality just a little closer to my experience. I began to wonder how I can honour the lives and sacrifices of soldiers without resorting to the violence of war. What does it mean for a 21st century pacifist to “take up the quarrel with the foe”? And what does the poem mean when it refers to “failing hands”? Perhaps the war itself was the failing part. I think that learning well is a step in the right direction. We can learn that violence is not the way to solve problems; rather, it is merely a way to create more.
I ended my last blog with a challenge and today I will do the same. Contemplate in what peaceful ways you too can take up the quarrel that brave men and women fought—and do fight—everyday.