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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A Gift, From Me To You.

A conversation I was having with a chap on Twitter this evening inspired me to make a list of 5 books that I think you may enjoy.  Books that I love and treasure, and ones that I think everyone should love and treasure.  Call it a wee gift, from me to you.  They are in no particular order, though the first book is the one I recommended on Twitter this evening, and the one that prompted this post.  I hope you enjoy them.  This may, or may not, become a regular feature.

Fup, by Jim Dodge.
Fup, is quite simply a wonderful little book.  It has a duck, a boar, a gentle giant making fences, and an immortal grandfather who spends his days distilling Ole Death Whisper whiskey.  I first read this book on the train between Glasgow Central and Wemyss Bay, and devoured it in less than 45 minutes.  It’s a book I haven’t read in a while due to giving all my copies away – they don’t come back – but it still has me smiling like a loon just thinking about it.

Sombrero Fallout, by Richard Brautigan.
Richard Brautigan is one of my very favourite authors.  I think it is tragic he is seemingly not very well known.  Sombrero Fallout is unlike anything you will have ever read.  It is surreal, absurd, profound, concise, bittersweet, and quite beautiful.  It is the tale of a writer’s lost love, and of an ice cold sombrero that falls to earth bringing chaos to a small town in America.  Brautigan has a style all of his own, short sentences that deserve to be read out loud for the pleasure they bring as they trip off the tongue.   All of his books are fabulous, but this is my personal favourite.

The Good Fairies Of New York, by Martin Millar.
This is a book that took me by surprise.  It was sent to me by a good friend of mine in Scotland, a guy who I would think the last person to recommend fairy stories.  But this is a fairy story with a difference.  It’s a story about two kilted, punk fairies on the run from their clans in the UK, who end up in New York.  There is sex, drugs, rock’n’roll, fighting, and more crazy fairies than you can shake a stick at.   With one of the most memorable opening pages I have ever read, this is another book that made me laugh out loud, a lot.

Slaughterhouse 5, by Kurt Vonnegut.
Kurt Vonnegut is quite possibly my favourite writer, and Slaughterhouse 5 is probably his most famous book.  It is a satirical black comedy, with a dash of sci-fi, and personal memoir thrown in.  It is ostensibly about Vonnegut’s experiences as a prisoner of war in Dresden at the end of World War Two, but it is also very much more than that.  This is a book both funny and disturbing, horrific and humane, serious and surreal, which should be required reading for armchair generals everywhere.

Hunger, Knut Hamsun.
This is an incredibly intense and powerful book about the travails of a desperately poor writer trying to make enough money from day to day in order to live.  Rarely have I had such an emotional involvement in a character.  Here is man who’s pride leads him to the very edge of starvation, a starvation that is somehow made palpable for the reader.  The test of a good book, for me, is in it’s memorability.  I have only read this book once, about ten years ago, an ex-girlfriend has my copy, and I can still remember the emotional rollercoaster it put me on as if it was yesterday.  And by no means is this an irredeemably bleak book, it has many humorous episodes too.