When I was younger I didn’t wear a poppy, even though I was in the ATC and marched on Remembrance Sunday. I wore a white ribbon, I wore it all year round on my coat. I am, and always have been against war. I didn’t get into any arguments or discussions about why I didn’t wear a poppy, and no one ever challenged my ribbon. As I got older and more cynical about our country’s foreign policy, and read books by Pilger, Chomsky, and Monbiot et al, I realised a few things.
1. You don’t have to be pro war to remember the sacrifice that others have made in the past, for things they believed in.
2. The poppy and the ribbon are not mutually exclusive.
3. If you’re anti war you don’t have to wear a white ribbon.
An act of remembrance, however you do it, is a more effective way to prevent future wars, it galvanises us to lobby and vote in certain ways, to write to our MPs, to educate others and enter in discussion and argue our case.
What prompted this post was the increasing passive aggressive bullying that goes on in the realms of social media to wear a poppy. The argument goes that if you don’t wear one you’re somehow disrespecting our armed forces. I don’t accept this. We remember those who died in conflict, those that died to ensure we remained free. A big part of that freedom is the right to choose how and when to remember.
The most annoying aspect of this is blind shares and likes of right wing groups that have co opted the poppy to further their racist views. We’re in danger of applying the same racist connotations to the poppy that we have to the George Cross.
One of my relatives was an engineer, and instrumental in building the Spitfire. Tracy’s grandad carried his commanding officer through the jungles of Burma, saving his life. We both have good reason to remember that, and it doesn’t just happen on the 11th of November, it can happen on a warm spring morning when something on the news flashes an image in your head, or a throw away comment, a passage in a book…. Anything, at any time. We remember.
I wear a poppy, but I would never question anyone who doesn’t.