I have, indeed, been thinking about the Great War of late. Even on Memorial Day as I was listening to songs of the American Civil War, I was printing poppies that were more appropriate to the War to End All Wars. I’m sure that as we approach 2018 I’ll be consumed with many aspects of just how World War One truly changed the world, and brought about almost every major event or movement of the 20th Century.
Today, as I contemplated the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand; today, as I mentioned just what happened this day in history to people with blank stares on their faces, today, as I sold luxury shirts to people who refuse to give their name or contact information yet only pay with credit cards; I reminded my self that I live in a country at war, and I was ashamed.
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.
And God spake vnto Noah, and to his sonnes with him, saying; And I, behold, I establish my couenant with you, and with your seede after you: And with euery liuing creature that is with you, of the fowle, of the cattell, and of euery beast of the earth with you, from all that goe out of the Arke, to euery beast of the earth. And I wil establish my couenant with you, neither shal all flesh be cut off any more, by the waters of a flood, neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth. And God said, This is the token of the Couenant which I make betweene mee and you, and euery liuing creature that is with you, for perpetuall generations. I doe set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a couenant, betweene me and the earth. And it shall come to passe, when I bring a cloud ouer the earth, that the bow shall be seene in the cloud. And I will remember my couenant, which is betweene mee and you, and euery liuing creature of all flesh: and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh. And the bow shalbe in the cloud; and I will looke vpon it, that I may remember the euerlasting couenant betweene God and euery liuing creature, of all flesh that is vpon the earth. And God said vnto Noah, This is the token of the couenant, which I haue established betweene mee and all flesh, that is vpon the earth.
I admit that I have a sympathetic ear to the environmentalists. in fact, I may be called an environmentalist, by some. I would call myself a conservative Christian, and I believe that God keeps his promises. I also admit that I am baffled by other Christians who claim to be conservative when they claim that hurricanes in the American south, or floods in Brittan are a sign of God’s righteous judgment on our sinful nature or due to gay marriage. Didn’t God promise “no more water but fire next time,” or some thing to that effect?
It confuses me when a person who claims to be conservative is against those who are conservationists. Do not the words conservative and conservation have the same root? Are we not called to be stewards of God’s earth? Are there not Rogation Days on the Christian calendar? It is as ridiculous to claim that global climate change is the result of gay marriage or drunkenness and lascivious behavior as it is to say that global warming is an invention of scientists that find only what they are looking for and that Earth Day is another brick in the stone wall of the liberal agenda and opposed to conservative Christianity. The creation story of Genesis it says: “And the LORD God tooke the man, and put him into the garden of Eden, to dresse it, and to keepe it.” In the Psalms, we read, “What is man, that thou art mindfull of him? and the sonne of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower then the Angels; and hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to haue dominion ouer the workes of thy hands; thou hast put all things vnder his feete. All sheepe and oxen, yea and the beasts of the field. The foule of the aire, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoeuer passeth through the paths of the seas. O Lord our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!” This keeping of the earth, this dominion over God’s creation, is not permission to waste, exploit or pollute it. It does not mean that we should fish all of the edible life from the sea.
It does not matter that the earth has cooled and heated. It does not matter that species have gone extinct whether by God’s design or through human intervention. What matters in these Rogation Days is that we commit ourselves to conserving what God has given us. It is not a question of “can we drill for oil; should we build a pipeline; is fracking a good idea?” but rather “what will conserve God’s creation; are we being good stewards?” It is a question of: Are you conservative, and just what will you conserve for your children?
Now enjoy some Paul Robeson:
I’m sure it’s no surprise t those living in the United States that this weekend is Memorial Day Weekend. I have of course written about Memorial Day and the tradition of wearing a poppy as a symbol of remembrance: Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream, I Have Excellent News: The Poppy Is Not Extinct!.
I’m sure that someone will correct me saying that Memorial is rightly Decoration Day, a tradition sprung from the Civil War, and the poppy is an invention of the First World War, but I remember veterans and widows selling little paper poppies on Memorial Day when I was a kid. This year and I wanted to do something that remembered this tradition along with the traditions surrounding Memorial, or Decoration Day, and here it is:
Join me at Shoestring Press this Memorial Day from noon to five in the evening for an interactive printmaking event honoring those fallen in battle. Come any time between noon and five to assist with printing poppies to hang in the shop window. They may be dedicated to a specific serviceman, or to fallen servicemen in general.For more information visit the Shoestring Press Facebook page.
The Song of Wandering Aengus
by William Butler Yeats
I went out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;
And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout.
When I had laid it on the floor
I went to blow the fire a-flame,
But something rustled on the floor,
And someone called me by my name:
It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossom in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran
And faded through the brightening air.
Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done,
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.
by William Wordsworth
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed–and gazed–but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.