For the past two weeks everywhere we have gone, people were wearing poppies. Every person: waitresses, taxi drivers, store clerks, ministers, television news reporters, politicians & celebrities we saw on television. Every. Single. Person.
Today was the culmination of paying respect and honoring the fallen soldiers of previous wars.
We were in shops in our little town at 11:00 today and everything stopped for two minutes of silence. For two minutes total silence fell over the town. Announcements were made in the stores that we would be observing the silence. Heads were bowed. People stopped and stood still. Cars stopped on the streets, people stopped walking and the bells on Sherborne Abbey rang to commemorate this moment.
When it was over, I was moved to tears in a way that was very hard to verbalize. I tried to explain to Barrie that this - THIS is what we used to do in our country as I was growing up. THIS - this is the way I remember us honoring the dead on Memorial Day and Veteran's Day (Armistice Day). THIS - this is how we all wore poppies and showed a unified presence to honor the veterans who had lost their lives defending our freedom.
After a bitter political election and more hate and vicious attacks than I could have ever imagined, I have been left drained and like so many of us in the US, I was sad and demoralized by the outcome of the election.
But I have made a decision today. . . I refuse.
I refuse to let anyone - liberal or conservative take away my innate sense of what is right and wrong.
I refuse to let anyone change my moral compass as we have seen our country seem to return to the dark ages of prejudice and hatred and bigotry and sexism.
I refuse to spend the next four years hating the person who is the President of the United States the way Obama has been hated for the past 8 years.
I refuse to read anymore news feeds - liberal or conservative that are baseless gossip and usually months old. I have blocked ALL news feeds - those that share my political views and those that do not. I have no problem with unfollowing friends on Facebook who continue the derogatory comments and lies for BOTH sides. It is quite freeing actually.
I refuse to let our country become a laughing stock to the rest of the world and will defend it in anyway that I can in conversations as we travel. I have resolved to be a representative of my country and hope that I can be a good one.
I refuse to believe that one man or a House full of Representatives and Senate full of Senators can change what we have accomplished in the past many years of fighting for equality and human rights.
I refuse to believe that we have lost everything that we are as a people and nation to tirades of hate.
I refuse to believe that we have nothing left in which to believe.
We are currently in the country that voted for Brexit. And we are from the country that just voted for Trump. I see lots of similarities as I listen to people here talk about Brexit. Yes - there are exceptions to the rule, but for the most part, this is how I see it.
As I talk to people here and ask their opinions about Brexit, it is very clear that the older people (Baby Boomers) voted for Brexit and their children voted against it. When I have questioned the Boomers about why their children voted against Brexit, the answer is always the same, "because they don't know any different." The younger generation has always lived with the UK being part of the EU. The Boomers are looking for that elusive England of their youth when their country stood on its own and was not part of the larger European Union with other countries directing its business. When jobs were plentiful and there was always work if you wanted to work.
As I listen to the news from home, it also seems very clear that many Boomers voted to "Make America Great Again" and the younger voters did not. Make America great again. It's the nostalgia for our youth. I get it. I felt it today with the poppies and the two minutes of silence and the solidarity of this small town.
I get it. I would love to have our country go back to that simpler time when I was a girl. It was small town Americana. We wore our poppies, sang our patriotic songs, listened to the 21 gun salute over the graves of brave soldiers who had died, and felt pride. Yes - it was a wonderful time. Just not for everyone.
It was also a time of white water fountains and bathrooms, "back of the bus" rides for non-whites, no blacks at lunch counters with whites, dogs attacking and batons beating protesters, churches being burned, and people who had never met a black person using the "N word" without even blinking an eye.
It was also the time of girls wearing only skirts or dresses to school and work because pants were not allowed. Pantsuits were not yet invented. There was no Pantsuit Nation.
It was also the time of girls being raised to be "good wives and mothers". Because - what else was there for us to do?
So where are we now and where are we going?
I certainly don't have the answers, but I for one am not going backwards. I refuse.
The poppies have long symbolized the departed who fought for freedom and was chosen as a symbol of remembrance because it was the only plant to grow on the otherwise barren battlefields. It refused to die.