They Couldn’t Care Less.
On Memorial Day (as it is celebrated) I pined a poppy to my chest and set out to Brooklyn to work on my project Poppies of Remembrance. Once there, I printed poppies and posted them in the shop window of Shoestring Press. People came by and assisted in the project, discussed Memorial Day, and learned a bit about the poppy as a flower of remembrance.
However, on my way out to Brooklyn I stopped by my local cafe for a bite of breakfast. There was a middle aged man outside the cafe and he noticed the poppy I was wearing. This man remembered veterans selling poppies when he was young. He remembered wearing a poppy on Memorial Day, Armistice’s Day, or even D Day (today). He remembered the men, like the anonymous man on West 86th Street in Manhattan who was out selling Poppies in the days before Memorial Day, or Jack Lombardi who sells poppies outside a bank in the Whitestone Shopping Center.
Outside the cafe my conversation turned from remembering to lamentation as my neighbor said “The old guys just aren’t arround any more.” What does that have to do with anything! There is a steady stream of men and women coming back from War! We live in a country in wartime! He consolled himself with the knowlidge that the local Roman Church had a memorial service that day. ( I didn’t realize that national holidays were on the liturgical calendar.)
The New York Times printed a fluff piece (He Still Serves) under the heading of “Charicter Study” as if selling poppies was a quaint throwback. Of course, no one reads beyond the first or second paragraph, but the real meat of the article was in the wrap up:
“Outside the bank, he proffered a poppy to a strapping young man in workout gear, heading toward the nearby gym and staring at his cellphone.
“No, I’m good,” the man said, waving it off.
Mr. Lombardi shrugged and said, “A lot of young people don’t know what it’s all about — they couldn’t care less.””
Clearly that man was not good. Had he been doing good he’d have stopped and bought a poppy. He’d have stopped and taken the time away from his own important life and remembered one who did good, and died, as so many died, on this date in 1944.