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Thoughts on Remembrance Day (2015)

by Zettel 

Posted: 12 November 2015
Word Count: 147

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Thoughts on Remembrance Day (2015)
As Chilcot adds insult
to injury and death
As words and selfish pride
spin a web of Truth denied
unscathed men of power
Poppy-wreathed they hide
and still deny they lied
Our duty to the living
transcends our debt to death
Deceit dishonours lives
sacrificed to lies
To the call for common cause
unsolaced grief replies
only Justice unifies
Truth and Justice march in time
not pipes and bands and boots
The people’s poppies long for peace
that sales of arms surcease
we profit from the trade in death
hypocrisy our sole release
from heart and soul’s unease
So move us with your marching bands
salute without ironic pause
our ill-named ‘glorious’ dead
But the blood of lies is just as red
remembrance deeply stained
by pious words thoughtless read
that celebrate not love of life but
something deep and dark instead

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Comments by other Members

V`yonne at 17:56 on 13 November 2015  Report this post
I like it and I wholeheartedly concur.

Bazz at 21:12 on 13 November 2015  Report this post
A very emotional piece, Zettel. I often wonder if the poppys politicians wear shouldn't be a darker shade of red...

Think this part sums everything up most succinctly, rememberance has become politicised, malleable like everything else. Hideous.

remembrance deeply stained
by pious words thoughtless read

As an aside I think it would be interesting to write poems before and after the Chilcot report, to capture the feel of how it's let people down, and also how much or how little it willsatisfy/dissapoint. (this is assuming that it ever comes out)

Zettel at 00:16 on 14 November 2015  Report this post
Thanks V'yonne and Bazz.

Every year at this time I have the same misgivings and I wonder - what do the loved ones of honrourable casualties of a dishonourable, illegal war do? Where do you put your emotion seeing the unspeakable Tony Blair, with his now 13 residences around the world and annual millionaire earnings, standing by the Cenotaph. If Chilcot doesn't nail him it will be a disgrace. He should face the International Court (even if he would not be convicted - there IS a case to answer).

Bush cannot be so charged as scandalously the USA is not a member.

Stopping everything at the 11th minnute of the 11th hour of the 11th day is a fitting, moving and truly respectful recognition and remembrance. The rest is politicised theatre at best and manipulated chauvanism at worst. The tribute built over many months at the Tower of london was also imaginitive, effective and rightly caught the imagination of the decent people of Britain.

Thanks for the comments. Like your idea Bazz but I fear the results of the already farcical Chilcot enquiry will be beyond parody, let alone poetry.



James Graham at 14:35 on 14 November 2015  Report this post
I’m completely at one with everything this poem says. It has been praised already but it deserves more. I’d like to highlight some lines which are especially strong. First, I’ve seldom seen a cliche more effectively revitalised than ‘add insult to injury’ in the first two lines: ‘injury and death’. It’s not only the addition of ‘death’, the word ‘injury’ itself now embraces all the disabling injuries to soldiers and countless terrible injuries suffered by Iraqi and other non-combatants.
unscathed men of power
includes the top brass of 1914-18, living in French chateaux well away from the trenches, all the way to ‘the unspeakable Tony Blair’ who is not only unscathed but has, as you say, made himself extremely rich by exploiting his spurious fame.
The people’s poppies long for peace
If I had to choose one line it would be this one. It has the ring of truth, and says so much in a very few words. It’s in the context of your stanza about the arms trade, which is very strong in itself.
And the closing lines: remembrance is indeed ‘deeply stained’, and ‘something deep and dark’ still underlies the remembrance rituals. What is that something? There could be many answers. The arms industry needs war and lobbies for it. Wars are not the inevitable outcome of an unalterable flaw in human nature, but are brought about by the abuse of power. Osama bin Laden was a terrorist, but so were Bush and Blair.
I may be too optimistic, but since Bush and Blair I think more people than, say, 20 years ago, would agree with the view expressed in this poem.
PS. Just a thought: any remembrance ceremony should formally include tributes to those who suffered on the ‘other side’ - Iraqi civilians, Afghan peasants.

Zettel at 19:09 on 14 November 2015  Report this post
Thanks James. Your perspective always valued.

I agree entirely with your PS and of course Archbishop Runcie to his eternal credit as man and Christian of course notoriously did this at the Falklands war service and was roundly condemned by Thatcher et al for doing so.  It is often said that Blair and Thatcher are/were very alike - how true; how true. 

In the great media furore that will assail us in the next few days and weeks it will conveniently forgotten that Christianity as a religion, itself is stained with much blood and unspeakable violence. Religion, with it's next world metaphysics* at least distorts, at worst undermines morality. I have only reached one conclusion over the years - that only life, this life, is sacred. That all 3 Abrahamic religions claim the same belief in theology which they abrogate and deny in practice; o#is one of the more ironic and tragic features of the human condition.

Thanks again for the comments

* Metaphysics - "Like a thousand word menu - with no food." - Robert M Pirsig


James Graham at 20:05 on 14 November 2015  Report this post
When Blair was first elected Prime Minister, Thatcher was asked if she was disappointed. She is quoted as saying, 'Oh, we needn't worry about Tony'.

As for religion and war, I'm often reminded of the Grand Inquisitor's speech in The Brothers Karamazov. Speaking of the common people:
Peaceable will be their end, and peacefully will they die, in Thy name, to find behind the portals of the grave--but death. But we will keep the secret inviolate, and deceive them for their own good with the mirage of life eternal in Thy kingdom. For, were there really anything like life beyond the grave, surely it would never fall to the lot of such as they!

In the context of war, it occurs to me that religion throughout the ages has facilitated war, in the sense that fighting men who believe in the 'mirage of life eternal ' will risk death more willingly. Still, especially in our time there must be those who believe that they will 'find behind the portals of the grave--but death' yet still risk death. If atheism/  humanism were more widespread, it should help to change attitudes to war.


Zettel at 00:10 on 15 November 2015  Report this post

I too am great admirer of The Brothers Karamazov: especially the speech you quote. I have always felt that non-religious believers are due a special kind of admiration and respect when they risk or sacrifice their lives for others; lacking as they do, the solace of 'heavenly reward'. One of the particularly unpleasant aspects of the position of Jihadist Fundmentalism is that apart from the metaphysical offer of eternal reward for 'martyrdom' (suicide bombers are of course not martyrs in the proper sense of the word) they also know that their families will be looked after for life. For men and women whose whole life has been lived in poverty and under threat (which is of course another relevant aspect of the story) this is a great inducement.

Of course, it is fittingly, French Philosophers, notably Camus who clarified and refined this austere but amazingly powerful Existentialist belief in the power of a faith and belief in the value of humanity per se. Man is 'Absurd' because on the face of all evidence to the contrary, knowing there is nothing after death, he/she still believes life is worth living and personal sacrifice still makes a sense within it. It's a tough philosophy but hard not to admire.




James Graham at 14:05 on 16 November 2015  Report this post
The very mention of Camus had me re-reading the closing pages of L’Étranger, where Meursault launches a tirade against the priest who visits him in the condemned cell and tries to offer him the comfort of an after-life. Meursault asserts his love of this life; when the priest has gone he finds himself not only calmer but happy. His death imminent, and beyond it only oblivion, he is happy. The resolution of this novel is such a tour de force.
The term ‘thought-provoking’ is somewhat overused, but it certainly applies to your Remembrance Day poem. I’ll comment on ‘A Sense of Tragedy’ as soon as I can.

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