Poppy Pride and Prejudice.

It never ceases to amaze me at this time of year how bigoted, ignorant, and intolerant people can be to those, such as myself, who decide to wear a white poppy instead of a red one.  Just this week for example, someone I know very well posted a picture on Facebook that had the caption “if the red poppy offends you pack your bags and Fuck Off!”  Rational and civilised discussion are just not on the agenda it would seem.  There are none so deaf and blind, or dangerous, as those who willfully refuse to see or hear an opposing point of view.  We are not allowed to be heard.  It is their way, or the highway, which is sorta reminiscent of the fascism our ‘heroes’ apparently vanquished some 70 years ago, funnily enough.

As a long time anti-war activist, I have often heard variations on the theme, “but those soldiers died for your right to protest/freedom of speech”.  If I had a pound for every time I had been told that, I would be a very rich man indeed.   More than once I have been told, in effect, that “these soldiers died for your right to speak, so shut your bloody mouth…”

Though, of course, the Freedom of Speech claim is utter nonsense, especially in light of recent cases in the UK, where a man was prosecuted for something he had written on a T-shirt, disabled women are having their doors knocked at the dead of night by Police over Facebook postings, people being arrested for Twitter postings, and folk being arrested for heckling the Prime Minister.

Freedom?  Aye, for the rich and their peado friends maybe.

Lest we forget, Remembrance Sunday was originally called Armistice Day, to commemorate the end of The Great War, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918.  Those who fought and died in the trenches thought they were fighting ‘The War To End All Wars’.  The Great War was supposed to be the Last War.  And this war was so horrific, so brutal, so pointless, that the general sentiment afterwards was of NEVER AGAIN.  That we have done it again, and again, and again and again, is a huge slap in the face to the millions who thought they were fighting in the last ever war.   Those that died in the mud of Flanders Field did not do so in the belief that their war was the first in a sequence.  The last 100 years have shown that they fought and died for nothing.  And that is not something to be proud of.

It seems obscene to me to take “pride” in events that have left millions dead and injured, and whole nations crippled and scarred.

Remembrance Sunday glosses over the details of various British military adventures, as if there is no distinction between WW2, Iraq, Kenya, WW1, the Falklands, Afghanistan or Ireland.  Ironically, Remembrance Sunday is not about remembering that our politicians regularly lie about war, or that war is mostly unnecessary, and evil.  It is only about remembering what is termed the “glorious dead”.  Details like causes and consequences can be forgotten.

And it is phrases like the “glorious dead” that also make me refuse to wear a red poppy.  Calling the dead ‘glorious’ serves only to glamorise and romanticise dying in war to our young.  It says, in effect, that it is a great, noble, and honourable thing to die in war.  Wilfred Owen railed against that thinking in his poem Dulce Et Decorum Est, and Harry Patch, the last UK survivor of the trenches, went further, calling war nothing but “legalised mass murder”.

I wear a white poppy to show my distaste with war, with the misery it causes, with the lies that cause it, with it’s utter futility and pointlessness.  War is terrorism writ large, and nothing about it should ever generate pride.  I shall wear my white poppy with sorrow, sadness, and a fair grasp of what war has meant for generations, from World War One to Iraq.

… The white poppy is a symbol of remembrance for all those who have died in war, not just one nation’s dead, or one nation’s fallen soldiers; but all deaths in all wars, civilian and soldiers, past conflicts and present. The death of one individual in conflict has the same worth and sadness attached to it as any other, and the white poppy promotes that.

The red poppy does not. It promotes one nationality, it promotes one profession, it ignores civilians, and worst of all it encourages collective silence in questioning British involvement in current conflicts that continue to see casualties week in week out, from all sides.

And if you don’t like that, argue with me, politely 😉

Further reading –
Lest We Forget 2012, by John Andrews.

The Cult of The Fallen Soldier by Matthew Vickery.

White Poppies Are For Peace.

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8 Comments

  1. Well said….

  2. The red poppy does not promote one nationality. We wear them here in the US, and in Canada. I am not offended if someone wears a white poppy. But it seems that quite a few white-poppy wearers have no respect at all for those who died, not because they were warmongers, but because they were doing their duty. I’ll respect their views if they respect mine.

  3. I respect your views, Annie, but it is surely true that the red poppy is about remembering ‘our’ dead, whether that our be Canadian, American, British. Today was certainly not about remembering German soldiers who died, or Iraqi soldiers. That was the point I was trying to make.
    Most I know have nothing but respect for those who died, we just don’t have much respect for the reasons they were sent to die.

    Peace out, thanks for commenting.

  4. I have no issues with you choosing to wear a white poppy whatsoever. I am aware of the origins of the movement. However, I was advised in school, many years ago, that funding from the sale of red poppies went to the veterans and having read the white poppy website, it appears that monies raised do not do likewise. As long as you make a reasonable financial donation to any fund which helps injured and traumatised veterans, then whatever colour poppy you chose to wear does not matter. Your second point re: Iraqi soldiers- I have a young friend who has an Iraqi father and a British mother and a partner who serves in the British armed forces. She respects and recognises all war-dead as I do myself.

  5. By the way, ‘peado friends, ‘ which you mention in your piece, is a diminutive which reduces a very serious crime to slang language and I personally do not like this term. Language matters because it is so powerful. People who have experienced paedophilia ( the correct spelling ) have been traumatised enough already without it being reduced to a trendy reference.

  6. Thanks for your comments, Jackie. According to the Peace Pledge Union, money raised from the sale of the white poppy goes towards funding their educational work. You can read what they say on the matter here – http://www.ppu.org.uk/whitepoppy/white_faq.html#_4
    It has always seemed a bit perverse to me that wounded and traumatised soldiers have to rely on what is in effect a charity. I have always felt that the governments that send them into harms way should pay for looking after these men and women, as opposed to them being made, in effect, charity cases.

    With regard to your comment about my reference to ‘peado friends’, I accept the point you make. Possibly it was not the best choice of phrase.

  7. I agree, that the government ought to always have been caring for war veterans. A sound point. Historically, returning servicemen from WW1 were dumped in London on their return and left to their own devices , to get home. I guess that in the absence of respectful care by governments, I am prepared to contribute directly, to funds to help current -day veterans. I know that the white poppy money goes towards educational work, which is valuable in it’s own way.

  8. For what it is worth, on the few times I have found myself before a poppy seller rattling a tin, I have politely explained my reasons for not wanting to wear a red poppy, while still dropping a few pennies in the tin.


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