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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Ypres-Wash: A Dream of Remembrance

Months into recovery, I dreamed that I was pursuing answers in the hospital about systemic medical error, and a witty young feminist French philosopher (probably Simone de Beauvoir) followed me around the corridors whispering "Ypres-Wash, Ypres-Wash".

I tried to correct her by saying "Ipperwash? What does that have to do with this?" But she kept going with this strange French pronunciation - Ypres-Wash, she said, with a grin and a sharp eye. I couldn't get the word or dream out of my head until I looked it up.

It turns out that Ypres, Belgium is the site of the museum of Flanders Fields - the name of the poem to commemorate the dead in WWI.

It is also the place where Dr. Norman Bethune - famous in Canada for his advocacy for both medical reform and universal health care - was injured in battle in the same war.

Ipperwash is the name of the Ontario Provincial Park which was expropriated from a First Nation, and where one descendant of the same aboriginal nation was shot by police, when his family tried to take the land back. It took a public inquiry to find out what happened and who was responsible for the decision that led to Dudley George's death.

And so my dream brought me vision - that as with Flanders Fields, we must not break faith with those who die from preventable medical error, and that we must pursue truth and social justice with our government in the best Canadian tradition:

...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 those who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders Fields.

-poem by John McCrae

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