I didn’t expect to blog about Veteran’s Day
or Armistice Day, or the 100th anniversary of the War to End All Wars, but the devastatingly beautiful installation “Blood Swept Lands And Seas Of Red” at the Tower of London unexpectedly moved me to tears.
Artist Paul Cummins and stage designer Tom Piper created the commemoration, composed of 888,246 individually made red ceramic poppies, each representing a single fatality from the British & colonial forces in World War 1.
One cool and blustery day in November of 2004, just after the re-election of George W Bush, I was in London. I wore a button that read “I did not vote for him.” Being a lefty all my life, I had quite recently campaigned for Kerry, and had vigorously protested our going to war with Iraq.
As I approached St. Paul’s cathedral an older man in antique uniform approached me with a paper poppy. I gladly exchanged it for a 2£ coin, and when I thanked him he exclaimed: “Oh, you’re a Yank!! We love you Americans. Thank you for all that you did. We love you!” and there were tears in his eyes, and my own.
Power speaks the truth
This installation vividly illustrates the grief and horror of war, and greatly honors the bravery, sacrifice and commitment of veterans and the families who lost them. The visual power of that monumental wash of red, surrounding the Bloody Tower itself, feels like a truth-telling. One we have all needed for some time.