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Red Poppy on White Mountain

Bila Hora and the Thirty Years War

Red poppy on White Mountain. A lone flower marks the lives of millions, a floral bell tolling on the breeze. This is White Mountain (Bila Hora), a few miles from Prague. The first battle in Europe’s wars of religion was decided here in 1620, in just an hour. A third of Central Europeans would die, Catholic on Protestant. Now, a fringe of quiet 1920’s villas crouches around a field of ripened grain, with a small cairn in the middle. A dozen rocks for such excruciating cruelty. People tied from ravage, rampage, and starvation. Taking a break from their saunas, the Swedes invented a waterboarding torture called #Schwedentrunk, forcing foul liquid into their victims. We never know when things begin, and when they will end, or where, or how. We hush, or ignore, or are simply blind to the butterfly wings that beat out those silent concentric measures of time. Yet those quiet beats carry an impact that’s as subtle as the shuffle of molecules – as we’re beginning to discover from #epigenetics. It gets into our bones, those wars of our forebears, the abuse visited on our parents by alcohol, abuse, or unreturned love, or the suicide of their parent. History travels down generations, communal and personal. I was often struck as a boy how WW1 seemed just around the last corner. As a child, an old Scot shook hands with me and said “You’ve just shaken hands, with a man who shook hands, with a man who fought at Waterloo.” Then I journeyed back in my mind’s eye to sense how close Waterloo seemed for those old marching veterans, when they were boys. And from #Boney, it’s just a short stumble to The Age of Reason, where as societies we first toyed with notions of Tolerance, Rationality, Equality, the commonality of men (oh ok then, and #WomenToo, eventually, two centuries later). Ideas that were once strange, become commonplace – the separation of Church and State, or a person’s conscience from that of their master, or that black people have souls, and thus rights, too. Yet with all our accrued wisdom, technology, progress, we fail to elect great leaders, and our leaders fail us. #LifeTurnsOnADime. A stolen march, a broken promise, spilled milk, a tear unseen, a word unsaid.

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