Tijl Vercaemer, via Wikimedia Commons.

PARIS — To my great disappointment, I cannot attend the ceremonies today at the National World War I Museum in Kansas City.  In April, 2017, the museum’s commemoration of the U.S. entry into the Great War was fantastic, and today will, I imagine, be even more touching and momentous– I’m sad to miss it.  Yet what better place to be on the centenary of the Armistice than in Paris, the capital– and the heart– of the French Republic?

None.  Not my adopted hometown.  Not even Arlington.

It’s been raining– and will continue to do so all day– rather fitting weather, if you ask me.  The conflict that was to have ended war for all time was merely the preface to an even greater conflagration.  And what have we learned?  Not as much as we like to think.  So many of us remain stuck in a xenophobic, isolationistic mindset, without realizing that the only road to a peaceful world is through engagement with “the other”, through acceptance of other cultures and races and viewpoints, even if they make us cringe.  The benefits of engagement are too great to tally, and the price of pulling back measured in the saddest of statistics: lost lives.

Yet there’s a whole lot of wonder still remaining in this world.  Much cause for hope, much reason to be optimistic.  So long as we remember the loss of a century ago.

With that, I leave the real sentiment of the day to LTC John McCrae, M.D., of the Canadian Medical Corps…

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.