LEST WE FORGET… The Horror… The Crime #RRBC

In Flanders Fields

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.

By Dr John McCrae, 1915



Major John McCrae, MD, penned this poem while he sat on the rear tailgate of an ambulance during a quiet time waiting for the next wave of wounded soldiers to arrive at his field hospital near Ypres, Belgium in 1915. McCrae was born in Guelph, Ontario, Canada – not forty-five minutes from my home in Waterloo, Ontario.

As a writer, I admire the literary quality that seems to jump off the page (or screen), but to me, it cries out about the criminality of warfare. I’m reminded of this quote:

“Never think that war, no matter how necessary, nor how justified, is not a crime.”

Ernest Hemingway

War is a crime. This is my truth and I will not minimize or excuse the decision to resort to this behavior. To my mind, there is no ‘justified’ war. The circumstance of declaring war is the declaration of failure. No two wars are exactly alike – whether they be local/regional conflicts or mayhem on the global scale. War is the failure of the application of reason to solve a conflict. It is the ultimate disrespect for human rights and human life.

The third stanza breaks my heart. It is a desperate plea for meaning. These millions of young men slaughtered in the flower of their youth beg their comrades to make their own death mean something. Many will have no wives to mourn them nor children to carry forth their legacy – their lives forfeit in the killing grounds of Belgium. This is true of every war in human history.

What of the civilians who are caught up in the quarrels of the rich and powerful? Farmers, tradesmen, office workers, etc. do not start wars, but they are called upon to fight them. They are either cajoled by the promise of fame and glory and eternal reward as a martyr, or they are forced by legislation to kill the ‘enemy’. If they lose, it will be their wives and daughters who will suffer sexual violence and worse at the hands of crazed victors.

Since 1945, we have been spared a third World War simply because of the nuclear deterrent. Albert Einstein, whose work allowed for the development of atomic weapons had this to say:

“The release of atomic energy has not created a new problem. It has merely made more urgent the necessity of solving an existing one.”

Albert Einstein

This is an interesting observation. The United Nations was created to assist humanity in its quest for peace. The UN failed to make any meaningful progress toward that goal. I don’t blame the UN, I blame the rich and the powerful throughout the world who have used the UN to promote their own agendas. Local wars continued to rage under the watchful eyes of the United States and the Soviet Union – the two superpowers of the Cold War era. The local wars and terrorism continue to rage because the hope of Albert Einstein has not been realized.

Wars will come to an abrupt end when the rich and powerful decision-makers are forced “into the trenches” to fight it out with their enemies. Or, we the people must find a way to convince our leaders that violence is never a valid and justified course of action.

We in Canada call this day, Remembrance Day. At 11:00 am on this day, we stop for a moment of silence as we commemorate the fallen. It is known as 11/11/11. The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month – the moment the warring generals signed the Armistice that ended the fighting of World War I in 1918. We wear poppies at this time each year for the same reason and in recognition of John McCrae’s famous poem.

Lest we forget… the cost of failure and the true nature of this crime.

About John Fioravanti

Author, John Fioravanti writes non-fiction as well as fiction in the sci-fi genre. He's a retired secondary school educator and a lifelong learner. He considers himself a work in progress and welcomes the opinions and insights that others may have about his work. He prizes dialogue about meaningful topics, so please leave your thoughts!

19 thoughts on “LEST WE FORGET… The Horror… The Crime #RRBC

    • Permalink  ⋅ Reply

      John Fioravanti

      November 13, 2016 at 11:26am

      Thank you very much for the compliment, Yvette! So happy to see you here at Fiora Books once again. I’m grateful for your ongoing support!

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    Linda Mims

    November 11, 2016 at 6:57pm

    Thank you, John for this beautiful tribute! I wasn’t aware of war and its effects until I lost friends and loved ones in Viet Nam. Later, many of my students were killed or maimed in Iraq and Afghanistan and I was devastated by the horror they must have faced. We, who live and thrive, can never thank these men and women enough for dying and losing limbs to secure our futures. Many of them, even now, in the free world, aren’t honored and enamored enough for what they gave! NBA, NFL? No, our countries veterans should get the million dollar salaries!

    • Permalink  ⋅ Reply

      John Fioravanti

      November 11, 2016 at 8:34pm

      Indeed, Linda, you are dead right with that last statement. However, our wonderful society places far greater value on entertainers than their own protectors. I love pro sports – but I don’t watch it anymore for that reason. Do I miss it? You bet! There are so many men and women who work very hard each day doing very important work – but we don’t want to pay them much… (God forbid, our taxes would go up!) But the guys who chase a frozen hunk of rubber around a rink get paid millions. We are so fortunate to have the dedicated and courageous souls who put everything on the line for the rest of us. Thanks for chiming in here, Linda!

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    Jan Hawke

    November 11, 2016 at 11:20am

    At the time it was called ‘the war to end all wars’ – but it didn’t. WW1 in most respects dwarfs WW2, save of course, for the fresh horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
    This poem reminds me of one of my favourite contemporary writers, Julian Barnes’ short story ‘Evermore’ in his anthology ‘Cross Channel’. It’s a simple enough tale about a woman and her brother and his best friend/lover, whose lives were lost in Flanders. Her own life also ended in a way, as she never married. Every year, into the the turn of the century, she went on a pilgrimage to the war graves in France and Belgium, eventually paying homage to the WW2 soldiers as well her brother’s comrades, but always fixating on the greater number of fatalities and casualties of ‘The Great War’.

    It was not ‘Great’ except in it’s cost to humanity. ‘We will remember them’ is best honoured by our endeavouring to always stay at the negotiation table, and never again bearing arms against each other. Until we are able to do that, there can be no United Nations and our so-called remembrance has no honour.
    Thank you for reminding us of our true duty to the fallen, John..

    • Permalink  ⋅ Reply

      John Fioravanti

      November 11, 2016 at 11:55am

      Very well put, Jan. WWI was a travesty of horror as generals on both sides used 19th century strategies in the face of 20th century weaponry. We really do need a global resolve to stay at the negotiating table and refuse to resort to warfare. Thanks for sharing your thoughts today, Jan!

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    rick watkajtys

    November 11, 2016 at 10:29am

    Dear Brother John; You stuck a cord in my heart & brought a tear to my eye this morn’. I would like to share some words from a song entitled “Green Fields of France” written by John Mcdermott as follows: “Oh how do you do, young Willy McBride, Do you mind if I sit here down by your graveside. The sun shining down on these green fields of France, The warm wind blows gently & the red poppies dance. The countless white crosses in mute witness stand, To mans blind indifference to his fellow man, And a whole generation were butchered & damned. And I can’t help but wonder oh Willy McBride, Do all those who lie here know why they died. Did you really believe them when they told you the cause, Did you really believe that this war would end wars? The killing & dying it was all done in vain, Oh Willy McBride it all happened again, and again, and again, and again!” So my Brother John Happy Remembrance Day to you & a Happy Veterans Day as well. If you get a chance to hear this song you won’t easily forget it. Peace to All. Brother Richard

    • Permalink  ⋅ Reply

      John Fioravanti

      November 11, 2016 at 11:50am

      Hey, Brother Rick, thank you so much for this sharing today and your kind words. I’ll check out that song – likely on YouTube. It is indeed a difficult day as we salute the fallen, the scarred survivors, and the grieving families.

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    Mae Clair

    November 11, 2016 at 9:33am

    So well written and presented, John.
    In Flanders Fields never fails to touch the heart.

    • Permalink  ⋅ Reply

      John Fioravanti

      November 11, 2016 at 10:12am

      Thank you for your kind words, Mae. You’re so right – this poem never fails to move us. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts today!

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    John W. Howell

    November 11, 2016 at 8:48am

    Well done, John. I remember learning and reciting In Flanders Field in grade school. The poem never left me and continues to inspire. It is a time for remembrance and also thanksgiving.

    • Permalink  ⋅ Reply

      John Fioravanti

      November 11, 2016 at 10:11am

      Thank you, good sir. We learned that poem in grade school as well – an amazing piece of writing. Thanks for stopping by to share your thoughts, John.

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    Anne Fioravanti

    November 11, 2016 at 7:11am

    Beautiful reflection on Remembrance day . I always loved that poem. Will it be in your new Reflections book?

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    Gwen Plano

    November 11, 2016 at 7:03am

    This is a powerful post, John — beautifully written. In my area, the Veteran’s parade begins at 11:11 today, and it is an emotional tribute to all who have walked in this sorrowful path. Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah has a line which always tugs at my heart, “….it’s a cold and very broken Hallelujah.”

    • Permalink  ⋅ Reply

      John Fioravanti

      November 11, 2016 at 8:17am

      Thanks, Gwen, it is a very somber and emotional tribute we observe today… gratitude, painful loss, mixed with the respect and awe for the courage exhibited by the soldiers who paid the ultimate price and others who returned home scarred for life.

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