Balloons and poppies

In Germany, they celebrated their reunion. Hard to believe it is over a quarter of a century since the fall of that dreadful wall. Other countries split Germany which was their spoils of war, in two.

Then a government put up a wall along that artificial border, as it could not curb migration towards family, relatives, friends, a different ideology. Like so many others, this government imprisoned its people, took them hostage, occasionally set a few free when someone was willing to pay a ransom.

As with JFK’s assassination or the 9/11 attacks, many remember what they were doing when this wall was scaled and two halves of a nation became one again. I only remember seeing pictures on telly after work and wondering, not about this nation and its people’s future. No, about those who died and those caught, while trying to escape their prison.

They could not have been better commemorated, than by setting free the balloons which symbolically recreated that wall, its minefields, its barbwire, its trigger-happy guards. The most beautiful view must have been the release of each balloon, one after another, though they symbolised the wall and not lives lost.

On the other side of Europe, those who had given their lives willingly, unwittingly, forcefully, were commemorated. There the poppy represents lives lost during another World War.

The sea of ceramic poppies in the moat of the Tower of London is immense. Each single poppy represents a Common Wealth or United Kingdom life, lost during this argument amongst nations. So the poppies do not even represent the total number of casualties, nor lives permanently damaged or blighted. Yet this red carpet is immense. It is an impressive sea of lost lives. Many who have seen it say it is impossible to grasp and understand.

The poppies commemorate the First World War. The Berlin balloons commemorated the after-effects of the Second. There are other days and other symbols commemorating victims of these and other conflicts. All should remind us, people once lost their lives for peace, freedom, human rights. We should remember how carelessly we take all for granted.

The poppies and balloons should also be a warning: the two interconnected World Wars may not be the last major conflicts. At this very moment, there are wars being fought affecting people who only want to live in peace. At the moment, the number of border incidents between Russia and the EU is increasing and at Cold War level again.

Monday 11th of November, an international commemoration took place in the Netherlands to pay respect to the victims who had boarded a civilian plane which was shot down with a rocket during a war which was not theirs. Belongings and body parts of the MH17 victims still litter a now wintry Ukrainian plane.

No line of balloons or sea of poppies seem to teach certain people anything. This seems the overwhelmingly saddest part of these three acts of remembrance.


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