In honour of Canada Day I thought a posting about red and white flowers, the colours of our flag, would be appropriate. One small problem though. Aside from a small patch of red coral bells (heuchera) and a handful of white begonias, I have no red or white in my garden. Luckily, my mother's garden has lots of red and white, including these miniature roses. Her flowers make a guest appearance here today.
My mother has a poppy garden that I love. It looks so natural, as if it was achieved effortlessy. Her technique includes throwing down some seeds and then forgetting about them. It works, and year after year I'm amazed at these beautiful flowers. But this Canada Day, the poppy has me thinking about the war in Afghanistan.
The recently released United Nations World Drug Report found 90 per cent of the world's heroin comes from poppies grown in Afghanistan. Poppy yields there are increasing and experts believe this year's crop could set a record. Struggling Afghan farmers are growing poppies either because they're forced to by criminal gangs or because it's the most lucrative crop around. For many, it is literally their only shot at a better life for themselves and their families. Meanwhile the Taliban has its paws all over the drug trade and drug profits flow to Taliban fighters.
It is stunning to me that the same family of flowers growing in a Toronto backyard is financing a vicious war a world away. It's a war that has killed 60 Canadians since 2002. British and American soldiers are dying too as are countless Afghans, most of them civilians. So as I celebrated the red and white and all the great freedoms all of us enjoy, my thoughts turned to those in Afghanistan.
I was vehemently opposed when Canada joined the Afghan war effort after the September 11th attacks. How could attacking an entire country possibly lead us to Osama Bin Laden, I wondered? It hasn't and it probably never will. But since then I've learned a lot about Afghanistan and Osama Bin Laden's hosts, the Taliban. The Taliban kill teachers because they hate education. The Taliban don't think girls should learn to read and write. The Taliban don't allow music and dancing. The Taliban terrorize the people of Afghanistan.
Regardless of how our troops got there or how their mission has changed, I have come to believe they cannot abandon the people of Afghanistan. I have serious concerns about the Prime Minister's motives for keeping Canadian troops in Afghanistan until 2009. At the same time (and here's where I'll get in trouble with family members), I find the demands of NDP leader Jack Layton (bring the troops home now, end the mission now) completely ridiculous and even irresponsible. Can we really turn a blind eye to what is happening there? Can we really abandon the people like lambs to a slaughter? In some ways I feel I don't even have the right to ask those questions or have an opinion. Maybe that should fall only to those soldiers and their families living with the reality of this war every day.
There are no easy answers to Afghanistan. I can only hope that Canadian soldiers are able to come home soon to their families and that the people of Afghanistan can one day enjoy the freedoms and peace we do. And so my search for the red and white this Canada Day had an unexpected result: I don't think I'll ever look at a poppy the same way again.