Wednesday, November 6, 2013



The receptionist said my appointment would be Nov. 11 at 11 a.m. No, I said, that is the key silence of Remembrance Day. I certainly wouldn't honour that solemn time in a dentist chair.
She said in confusion that it wasn't a holiday. No, not for many, but it is not just another weekday for me. I was in the air force. There were many around me in the reserve, and in my early years at the Toronto Telegram, who had heard the brazen throat of war and would never forget the roar.
We must not either. But too many do.
There was a nice revival in Etobicoke schools a couple of decades ago to honour the day. My son Mark stood on the roof of Richview and played the Last Post while classmates formed a circle belowaround the collegiate, minus the normal joshing. He was on CBC TV news that night and I was tearfully proud.
Years later, my grandsons at Sunnylea just across the road went to Royal York United for a special service and the school didn't screw it up as it has the Christmas concert. Of course Mary and I went.
These days the red poppy blooms from every lapel on TV and with the politicians. For once I am not cynical. Of course they know it's the thing to do from a PR sense, but it is the right thing to do!
But I noticed the other day as I took the subway to the Royal York Hotel that I was the only one wearing a poppy. When I arrived, there were poppies everywhere but this was the induction luncheon of the Canadian Disability Hall of Fame. The five inductees and the hundreds who care about these issues who gathered with a nice sprinkling of dignitaries, are too familiar with the adversity that is imposed  on you by fate or health. They never will forget what so many volunteered to do so long ago.
Our lieutenant-governor, David Onley, nearing the end of his term where he has faithfully performed every task despite that wheelchair, was wearing a lovely red poppy that seemed made from the finest scarlet china. I am going to find out where he got it because I want one. (And for those who say that would deprive the Royal Canadian Legion of a sale, I think the key is the wearing, not the buying. But I will buy one anyway and not take it.)
I was at this luncheon two years ago when I tangled with Senator Nancy Ruth in an ugly scene. She was bellowing into her cell phone and generally ignoring the rest of us when she started attacking the feds for not charging HST on poppy sales.
Then she tore up a napkin and crudely fashioned a white poppy, which is the dumb idea of the anti-war folks like the lefties of the Rideau Institute and some students this year at the University of Ottawa who obviously have failed history. The students intend to distribute white poppies at the Remembrance Day ceremony at the National Cenotaph.
Of course we should leave the demonstrators alone but if some veteran wants to punch one in the snout, I will pay the fine and hound any judge dumb enough to impose it.
I do not intend to discuss at length the flawed argument behind the white poppy except to point out that the red poppy is the symbol for the peace that was bought in blood by young men and women who were never lucky enough to go to some university that seems known more for antics than scholarship.
I wrote about my confrontation with Senator Nancy Ruth on Nov. 13. 2010 under the blog headline The Cruel Reach Of The HST. She later told my friend, David Smith, in the Senate that I was a jerk. (What did we say in the schoolyard? It takes one to know one.)
If she wants to shout her views on feminism as a lesbian, or take such issue with her family and its traditions that she won't even use the Jackman name (her father was the Tory MP who was the Canadian war link to Churchill, her brother Hal was a fine lieutenant-governor) she can preen like a mating walrus and do so because she just feeds the majority opinion in polls that we have had too many egotistical blowhards appointed to the Senate who only serve themselves.
Those whom we remember with the red poppy faced bullets and bombs to serve us, and peace, a message lost on some callow students and one senator who should know better.
When you wear a white poppy, you just shout out to everyone around you that you really don't understand the country in which you live which has such a proud record as a world leader in war and in peacekeeping.
I have loved the red poppysymbol since I first heard In Flanders Fields in Grade 1. It is a poem I have refused to recite from platforms because I just can't get through it without it grabbing my throat. And in my memory rises the agonizing neat rows of white headstones in the military cemeteries I have visited from lush Holland to the raw Sicilian soil.
It has to be red because it is the colour of the blood that made the peace and the iconic symbol possible.

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