Everyone suddenly burst out singing;
And I was filled with such delight
As prisoned birds must find in freedom,
Winging wildly across the white
Orchards and dark-green fields; on – on – and out of sight.
Everyone’s voice was suddenly lifted;
And beauty came like the setting sun:
My heart was shaken with tears; and horror
Drifted away … O, but Everyone
Was a bird; and the song was wordless; the singing will never be done.
Since White Feathers came out, I have posted an armistice day post every year.
Over the years, the ceremonies to commemorate the dead of the wretched First World War and its successors have become marked and tainted by nativism and rage. The poppy which graces the cover of my novel was originally the symbol of doomed Adonis. Now it has been turned into a fashion statement. Make no mistake: those who boast it most stridently are the spiritual descendants of those who forced men to fight in 1914.
I sought to tell a story. I sought to cry injustice. A man who refused to salute such authority and paid a deep price. A woman who swore to fight forever to restore his name. A love that was severed by a self-satisfied, violent state order. A story that is told, and told, and told.
I now live near the place where the bodies from the Lusitania were brought in to harbour. The sinking of that ship eventually brought the United States into World War I. The graves are in an ancient plot left undisturbed behind a German supermarket chain. They carry the simple gravestones of the Commonwealth War Graves. A tacit recognition that these men and women, although civilians, died as a result of war.
It breaks my heart to see that in recent months, a malicious backlash from the privileged has imposed a deep discourtesy on the res publicae, across the Irish Sea, across the Atlantic, throughout the world. Those who have sacrificed nothing, who are devoid of virtue or humanity, are elevated and revered. Those who strive against all odds have their striving belittled by people who have been given everything. Greed allows pillaging and soiling of our beautiful Earth without a whit of remorse.
Today I am going to include Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man”.
At the going down of the sun, we will remember them.
Taken at the Bomber Command Memorial near Beachy Head, November 5, 2014: