Friday, 9 November 2012

A new hope?

There isn’t a good place to get cancer (I really don’t recommend the head, for instance) but some are better than others.

For a while there, it looked like America was about to become one of the others. Again.

But the good guy won their weirdly complicated election, and although ObamaCare doesn’t really come close to our free-at-the-point-of-need NHS, it’s a step in the right direction, and it’ll be nice when it’s finished. It’s also a progression Mitt Romney had pledged to reverse, despite having introduced something similar in Massachusetts during his tenure as Governor there. Which seems odd, unless you uncharitably see Mitt as a spineless flip-flopper who only won the Republican candidacy over his more extreme (no, really) opponents because he dribbles less and can dress himself, but is nonetheless in thrall to the far right, which thinks ending ObamaCare is the right thing to do.

It’s odd that there are people in the world who think that it’s morally correct to deny people accessible healthcare. Apparently it’s to do with their right to choose. The choice between them paying a little less tax and someone else getting to live, I presume. Yay for civil liberties.

But that’s not a choice to be made for now, because Obama gets to keep the nice Washington mansion for another four years. Which is good: he must have just got the couch in front of the telly worked into his shape. That’s something to strive for, and it’s a terrible thing to deprive a man of his own properly-grooved sofa. Happily, Barack gets to watch his West Wing box-set in comfort, and US patients get an era of renewed hope.

Which is apt, because this is a hopeful week, running as it does towards Remembrance Sunday. Which should be a day of hope, each scarlet flower a symbol of optimism that the human species can renew itself after horror and will remember not to repeat the stupidity.

Of course, we don’t always remember. Which is why we need the reminder.

One spectacular example of forgetfulness recently came from our plate-faced pudding of a Prime Minister, who seems to think that despite the economy remaining in the toilet, a postal order for £50million would be just the ticket for a wizard wheeze marking the start of the Great War, to “capture our national spirit in every corner of the country”.

Right, Dave. Because the First World War was just like the Jubilee and the Olympics, which went awfully well. Let’s have another one! After all, we won, didn’t we? There must be some brand advantage in that.

Or you could just buy a bloody poppy. It would be a lot cheaper, and commemorate the end, not the start, of one of the least laudable periods in our history, when for complicated political reasons an almost entire generation of youth was encouraged to trot enthusiastically off to conveyor-belt death by disease, drowning in mud, and the exciting new inventions of chemical warfare and machine-gun fire.

It’s because of buffoons like the leader of the Eton Mess that poppy day is at all controversial, that white poppies become a popular alternative for those who wish to celebrate peace rather than war and others simply refuse to wear a poppy at all.

I appreciate that sentiment, but I don’t agree. Abandoning the symbol doesn’t help: we need to keep the red poppy, not as a celebration of war, but as a annually-renewed reminder of its bloody foolishness; of the needless, wasteful horror and terrible loss; that Dulce et Decorum est really is an old lie.

We need to keep that splash of blood with its blackened core, the gunshot wound worn above each of our hearts, centre stage amidst the military show of Armistice Day.

That’s our renewed hope. Every year. Sometimes, it even works.

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