Hiya. It’s been 16 days since I last posted. Wish I could say there was a reason but . . . maybe there have been a couple, the first being that I have been unmotivated. Sometimes I feel like I am drowning in blather. FB, Twitter, email all bring me information that proves to be superfluous and sometimes distracting. Kim and Kanye share space with the 200 kidnapped girls in Nigeria. Lately everything seems noisy to me. So I feel disinclined to add to the chatter, especially when, unlike many who post their views on the World Wide Web, I am unsure of what I think.
Take for instance yesterday when I had a post prepared on poetry and propaganda. It was Memorial Day and the poem most associated with the holiday is “In Flanders Fields” written by Canadian physician John McCrae after the death of his friend during the second battle of Ypres in 1915, a battle he himself experienced first hand. My theory yesterday was that the poem, like the holiday itself, had morphed into something other than what was first intended. For example, these days the holiday, for some, marks not a day to commemorate the dead but to fire up the BBQ and start the summer.
And the poem, which in the voice of the dead, asks the reader to: “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” became more than a poem. It was immensely popular in the US and Europe and used to motivate soldiers and in campaigns to sell war bonds. In Canada the Unionists used it during the national elections, and Dr. McCrae was okay with it. His wildly popular poem was used as propaganda.
Although this use of the poem was troubling to me, it didn’t bother the author. So that shot my initial theory that it meant something completely different when it was penned. But it led me to thinking. What was my issue with the poem? I guess my beef is that it asks the reader to perpetuate the war, the very reason for the poem itself. There’s no equivocating.
Me? Sometimes I think I am the Grand Equivocator because I see both sides of issues to such a degree that I can’t make up my mind. I’m gray, not black or white. But the message of the poem is clear. My message? It’s still being determined and not easy to articulate. As far as the poem is concerned, I know I support the soldiers but hate the war. I hate even the idea of war, which makes me idealistic, not realistic. And so I realize I have to compromise my ideals, which leads me to equivocate.
Social media makes it easy to take a stand and share it. To tweet for the return of the kidnapped girls. To post your personal thanks to all those who have served in the military. If social media had been a thing during WWI, “In Flanders Fields” would have been tweeted and linked and “liked.”
Today’s big problems, like the current VA scandal or the stalled reaction to climate change or the proliferation of shootings (whatever problem –you name it) don’t have solutions that can be reduced to a single message. There’s no short answer. These problems are complicated and layered and require many different groups of people in many fields to work together.
Close to home one problem that disheartens me is the gun violence in Chicago. Yesterday I retweeted to Mayor Emanuel, along with the word “shameful” this sad statistic: “At least seven dead, 19 wounded in Chicago shootings since 3:40 pm Saturday.” I do this whenever I come across one of these statistics. Does it do any good? I hope it helps by making people more aware, but most likely the only good it does is to make me feel like I am doing something. I can retweet all I want, but what I want is a solution to this problem.
I was going to end by saying “Sometimes the words we have fail us.” But that’s not right. It’s us. We fail words. We misuse the power of words or take it for granted. We shout them out or drown ourselves in them so all words lose a little of their power. We distract ourselves with words. Or use them to rally the troops. Or we say the right things and like ourselves a little better. But using words to get things done, that doesn’t happen enough.
So anyway, I’ve been taking a break from it all, a little sabbatical. This weekend it was the camera that gave me solace. If you have a chance check out Glimpse.
And if you know how I can help, especially with the killing in my city, let me know. Or maybe you’d like to share something here. My email is open at weighedwords at gmail.com.
Peace, love, solace