There is a certain evil in what happened yesterday, and I am still trying to figure out what it is. This shocks me, as I have never believed in evil, which to me has always smacked of the black and white of organized religion, which has wreaked so much destruction in the world. 'This person is good, that person is bad' always falls short as an explanation. All of us live in the uncomfortable grey, but neither religion nor the totalitarians nor the populists can stand it, and so they invent evil (and heroism). So you can see why I am bothered by the fact that I sensed the callous hand of evil in what happened yesterday.
In the news of a country's departure from what is perhaps the world's greatest peaceful initiative past the confines of nationalism, and in the many lines that have already been written about the potential collapse of the entire initiative, I sensed it. In the cold light of this new day, in between the trenches of "leave" and "remain" in which the hopes and dreams of the young lay broken on the battlefield, and in the emaciated corpse of solidarity, it filled me with dread. Could this truly be evil and, if so, could it be traced to a single person or group of persons? Were they evil?
I thought of the cast of characters that have become all too familiar on our television screens and mobile devices. Even the most objectionable of them didn't live up to the monstrosity of evil. They seemed farcical , ridiculous and small in the aftermath of calamity. I thought of the fifty-two percent, many of whom cannot afford to travel to Europe because of entrenched socio-economic disadvantage. Why not 'leave'? They had never been out of the Midlands or had that opportunity. One could hardly lump them with being evil.
My grandmother once told me that the Holocaust had never happened. I remember clearly the way she said the words: with force, as though slaying the enemy. And who or what was that? It was memory and the truth of history which she knew all too well. The evil was not her or who she was, but the act of willfully, most consciously, forgetting.
In his personal account of the Holocaust entitled "Night", Elie Wiesel makes the point that to forget is in itself to commit the violence again. This severing of the past from ourselves is the evil of yesterday and today. May we sense the wasteland of the day after and hopefully in this remember.
Woke up this morning and stared into a giant poppy. Huge petals, like elephant ears, have opened everywhere in my magical island garden to share but never to reveal the mystery of mysteries. What is the source of all this beauty? Why do I see it as beauty? I look into the middle of the cup formed by the bright orange petals with large blood-red spots in the bottom, which are beginning to metamorphose into a woman's crepe skirt. In the middle is a green-purple circle of stamens that looks like an expensive feather boa. In the center is a purple wheel, machine-like in appearance, unexpected in the organic world. A botanist could perhaps explain it all so much better, but then could he really explain everything I see? Science is just one way of seeing a poppy.
I look into the cup of the flower again and see a wheel ready to conquer the landscape. Uncle Mike sits at his dining room table writing what he means to say on his whiteboard which he has begun to use to express himself since he had a stroke. My aunt and I make out the words "war memoir". He cannot write evenly, puts the pen down and shakes his head in frustration. Below us, in the basement, are the many paintings he has produced throughout the years. They were only a hobby and didn't much make it out of the basement. Beautiful, hidden there under the ground for no one to question and criticize, they could be there just like poppies in the garden. Uncle Mike reminds me of the poppies still in closed green husks. You have no idea of the surprise unfolding inside. Maybe we're all like that; we just pretend to know one another.
My Uncle scribbles the story of when a U-boat chased the ship that was taking him and his compatriots to fight in Europe in 1944. The German submarine didn't manage to torpedo them, and they made it to Omaha Beach. Uncle Mike has kept quiet about being a soldier until now. He hurt his foot fighting, and has always kept that in his shoe, so to speak. Now the poppy is opening and Uncle Mike is sharing despite or because of his stroke. Perhaps one day he'll tell us about the thousands of poppies in the fields. How did they get there? What did he see?
The smell of a poppy is like the smell of a sweet blade of grass. Who would have known it? Mystery of mysteries.