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.

Modern Heroes – Sister Megan Rice and Friends.

I make no apologies for reproducing this article from the New York Times in full.  It’s about Sister Megan Rice and her friends.  Looks like I’ve found more heroes…   😀

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/11/science/behind-nuclear-breach-a-nuns-bold-fervor.html?_r=1&hpw

By
Published: August 10, 2010.  She has been arrested 40 or 50 times for acts of civil disobedience and once served six months in prison.  In the Nevada desert, she and other peace activists knelt down to block a truck rumbling across the government’s nuclear test site, prompting the authorities to take her into custody.
National Nuclear Security Administration/Department of Energy

Sister Rice is one of three people arrested in a break-in at a the Oak Ridge nuclear reservation.

She gained so much attention that the Energy Department, which maintains the nation’s nuclear arsenal, helped pay for an oral history in which she described her upbringing and the development of her antinuclear views.

Now, Sister Megan Rice, 82, a Roman Catholic nun of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus, and two male accomplices have carried out what nuclear experts call the biggest security breach in the history of the nation’s atomic complex, making their way to the inner sanctum of the site where the United States keeps crucial nuclear bomb parts and fuel.

“Deadly force is authorized,” signs there read. “Halt!” Images of skulls emphasize the lethal danger.

With flashlights and bolt cutters, the three pacifists defied barbed wire as well as armed guards, video cameras and motion sensors at the Oak Ridge nuclear reservation in Tennessee early on July 28, a Saturday. They splashed blood on the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility — a new windowless, half-billion-dollar plant encircled by enormous guard towers — and hung banners outside its walls.

“Swords into plowshares,” read one, quoting the Book of Isaiah. “Spears into pruning hooks.” The plant holds the nation’s main supply of highly enriched uranium, enough for thousands of nuclear weapons.

The actions of Sister Rice, a New York native who grew up on a prosperous block in Morningside Heights, and her companions, ages 57 and 63, are a huge embarrassment for President Obama. Since 2010, he has led a campaign to eliminate or lock down nuclear materials as a way to fight atomic terrorism. Now, the three — two of whom, including Sister Rice, are free and are awaiting trial in October — have made nuclear theft seem only a little more challenging than a romp in the Tennessee woods.

In interviews this week, Sister Rice discussed her life — somewhat reluctantly at times — and kept emphasizing what she called “the issue.”

“It’s the criminality of this 70-year industry,” she said. “We spend more on nuclear arms than on the departments of education, health, transportation, disaster relief and a number of other government agencies that I can’t remember.”

Federal prosecutors, needless to say, take a different view. “This is a matter of national security,” William C. Killian, a United States attorney, told reporters outside a Knoxville courtroom. “It is a significant case.”

Sister Rice is no geopolitical strategist. But her bold acts and articulate fervor highlight how the antinuclear movement has evolved since the end of the cold war. They also illustrate the fierce independence of Catholic nuns, who met this week in St. Louis to decide how to respond to a Vatican appraisal that cast them as rebellious dissenters.

“We’re free as larks,” Sister Rice said of herself and her older religious friends. “We have no responsibilities — no children, no grandchildren, no jobs.”

“So the lot fell on us,” she said of fighting nuclear arms. “We can do it. But we all do share the responsibility equally.”

Megan Gillespie Rice was born in Manhattan on Jan. 31, 1930, the youngest of three girls in a Catholic family. Her father was an obstetrician who taught at New York University and treated patients at Bellevue Hospital. Her mother received a doctorate from Columbia University in history, writing her dissertation on Catholic views about slavery.

In the oral history, by the University of Nevada, Sister Rice portrayed her mother as strongly in favor of interracial marriage. “I just can’t wait,” she quoted her mother as saying, “until everybody in the world is tan!”

Sister Rice went to Catholic schools in Manhattan, became a nun at 18 and received degrees in biology from Villanova and Boston College, where her studies included class work at Harvard Medical School on how to use radioactive tracers. From 1962 to 2004, with occasional breaks, she served her order as a schoolteacher in Nigeria and Ghana.

“We slept in a classroom — no electricity, no water,” she said of her early days in rural Africa.

While visiting Manhattan in the early 1980s, she joined in antinuclear protests. She began visiting the Nevada test site for demonstrations and prayer vigils. Her mother accompanied her at times.

Around 1990, Sister Rice and other nuns set out on foot in the desert toward the site’s operational headquarters to distribute antinuclear leaflets. But guards, she recalled, “came up with their guns and treated us as though we were terrible criminals.”

In 1998, she was arrested in a protest at the School of the Americas, an Army school at Fort Benning, in Georgia.  It taught generations of Latin American soldiers to fight leftist insurgencies; some went on to commit human rights abuses.  The school has since been closed.

Sister Rice served six months in federal prison.  “It was a great eye-opener,” she said.  “When you’ve had a prison experience, it minimizes your needs very much.”

Malaria and typhoid fever began to impede her work in Africa and brought her back to the United States permanently.  Around 2005, her order gave her permission to join the Nevada Desert Experience, an activist group based in Las Vegas that organizes spiritual events near the atomic test site in support of nuclear abolition.

“She’s the kind of person who would risk her life to protect others,” Jim Haber, the group’s coordinator, said in an interview.

Late last month, Sister Rice set her sights on the Oak Ridge nuclear reservation, which covers more than 50 square miles, including wooded hills.  Her aim was to draw attention to its nuclear work.  After the break-in, the protesters released an “indictment” accusing the United States of crimes against humanity.

On Thursday in Knoxville, federal prosecutors shot back with an indictment of their own.  They charged Sister Rice, Michael R. Walli, 63, of Washington, and Gregory I. Boertje-Obed, 57, of Duluth, Minn., with trespassing on government property (a misdemeanor) as well as its destruction and depredation (both felonies).  The charges carry penalties of up to 16 years in prison and fines of up to $600,000.  All pleaded not guilty.

A trial in Federal District Court in Knoxville is set for Oct. 10.  If found guilty, the three defendants might be allowed to serve their sentences for the various charges concurrently, shortening their imprisonments to five years.

“She’s a pretty sympathetic character,” Ralph Hutchison, coordinator of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, said of the nun.  “Sixteen years would be signing her death warrant.”

Sister Rice plans to leave Knoxville on Saturday for the Catholic Worker residence in Washington and commute to the trial from there.

She called her life privileged.  “I’ve sort of fallen heir to it,” she told the interviewer from the University of Nevada.  “I’m grateful.”