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Abolish Poppies as a Symbol of Respect for the Dead

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

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, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

-John McCrae

When I was 16 a friend and I were skating a spot in the Downtown Eastside here in Vancouver, Canada. It was a skate spot in a park that was known for heroin users, so you had to stay off the grass because there were heroin needles everywhere. As we were skating, a cry came out from not far away and there was a guy with his friend turning blue, with a needle in his arm as he overdosed. His cry fell on deaf ears to the people around who did nothing to help him, nobody even picked up a cell phone to call an ambulance. My friend and I walked down the street and told a cop, but he seemed less than concerned. I always wondered about that man and whether he died that day.

We used to always skate the war memorial site at the corner of Hastings and Cambie because of the knee high railings that surrounded the memorial. People would often times come up and berate us for disrespecting the site. We would always counter that they died for our freedom to do this and that we weren’t actually harming the memorial just the crappy railings in the run down park. So as I watched the remembrance day parade and listened to the ministers and esteemed politicians spew their bullshit and the ubiquitous plastic poppies attached to peoples chests, I got to thinking of this poem taught to every schoolchild, the jingoism that permeates this country and poppies.

Heroin interestingly enough comes from poppies. With the rape and occupation of Afghanistan by Canada poppies proliferated exponentially. So our glorious automatons were sent in to kill illiterate peasants, apparently for not respecting women – sickening coming from a country with a city that allowed 49 indigent women largely in the sex trade to disappear from the Downtown Eastside. The killer Robert Pickton could have been brought to justice in 1998 when he was charged for attempted murder of a prostitute he stabbed numerous times, but the Crown stayed the charges because she was high on drugs and couldn’t be a reliable witness. No efforts were made to help the women so she could testify in court. The Missing Women’s inquiry has found the VPD “incompetent”.

Not surprising from our Mounties where, “The culture of sexual harassment within the RCMP is so pervasive that the plaintiff was helpless to personally stop it and had to accept a certain level of tolerance of it, as complaining about it would only make matters worse.” I guess being a high profile spokeswoman on the Pickton case like Cpl. Catherine Galliford doesn’t stop you from being sexually harassed to the point of post traumatic stress. Even the RCMP physician Phil Little who was on the missing women’s investigation refused to treat her post traumatic stress and apparently violated her privacy by sharing the details of her medical file with her husband. I guess she’s lucky they didn’t disappear her into a meat grinder on a pig farm somewhere, but that only happens to the broken and the downtrodden that roam that particular neighborhood of Vancouver where the VPD could care less about you.

As I watched the poppies on peoples’ chests I wondered how many ordinary people in this country were aware of the contribution of Afghan poppies to the world drug economy. Drugs are the largest global commodity in terms of profit after the oil and arms trade. “Immediately following the October 2001 invasion opium markets were restored. Opium prices spiraled. By early 2002, the domestic price of opium in Afghanistan (in dollars/kg) was almost 10 times higher than in 2000.” The Guardian reported back in 2007 that Afghanistan had more land growing drugs then Columbia, Peru and Bolivia combined.

According to former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, in an article in the UK Daily Mail back in 2007, the highest harvests of opium the world has ever seen. Murray elaborated that, “Our economic achievement in Afghanistan goes well beyond the simple production of raw opium. In fact Afghanistan no longer exports much raw opium at all. It has succeeded in what our international aid efforts urge every developing country to do. Afghanistan has gone into manufacturing and ‘value-added’ operations.” This means that Afghanistan “now exports not opium, but heroin. Opium is converted into heroin on an industrial scale, not in kitchens but in factories. Millions of gallons of the chemicals needed for this process are shipped into Afghanistan by tanker. The tankers and bulk opium lorries on the way to the factories share the roads, improved by American aid, with NATO troops.” Our lovely former Prime Minister and Finance Minister, The Honourable Paul Martin, overseer of the Afghan war for a stretch, owns a shipping company. I’m curious to how much heroin has come over on his ships.

A kid from my hometown of Gibson’s BC was the first Canadian kid to die in a firefight in Afghanistan. I didn’t know him personally as I’m a bit older, but I know the town. A little town just 45 minutes from Vancouver, it is a messed up little town with lots of drugs. My younger brother was fed 11 hits of acid when he was 8 years old, which subsequently led to his childhood schizophrenia. It’s a town I desperately wanted to escape and finally did at the age of 15 right into East Vancouver. The area known as the Sunshine Coast is quite beautiful and it’s being heavily gentrified by affluent Vancouverites. It used to be a nice little fishing and logging town with a significant hippie population. The guy who fed my brother the acid died of a heroin overdose.

Drugs are big business and worldwide they are largely going into the coffers of bankers, gangsters, warlords and everyone’s favorite, the CIA.  We should abolish the poppy as a symbol of respect for the dead when thousands of humans have died for the poppy. The torch has been passed to us and we can use it to light a new fire under the masters of Canadian cultural hegemony that tell us we fight for human rights, female rights and our superior Canadian morals every god damn remembrance day or else we will all be marching toward the common grave red, black, brown, yellow or white for the profits of the few in some god forsaken poppy field.

Mike Evans lives in North Vancouver BC Canada and can be reached at mikeevans52@gmail.com

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