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To Wear or Not to Wear: Thoughts on Remembrance Day and the Poppy

November 10, 2013

Today I read an article titled “Why I won’t be Wearing a Remembrance Day Poppy.” It made me a think a little and it made me a little sad. I realize that some people will be angry with it as well. As a semi-rebuttal, I would like to state why I WILL be wearing my Remembrance Day Poppy.

Unlike the author, none of my family has a history in the Canadian military until the generation after mine (my niece). I have no direct ties to those we are intended to remember on November 11.  My family does have a direct link to the WWII, however, as they were interned during a large chunk of it.

You might then ask, why would I want to wear a poppy essentially commemorating those that interned my family. This is NOT the reason for the poppy. The author of the article goes on to say:

“I’ve been wondering, though, why we need to wear a poppy at all. The line that I most often hear from friends and family is Lest We Forget, but honestly, who’s in danger of forgetting? In the wake of the First World War, which was supposed to be “The War To End All Wars”, it made sense to have a symbol to remember the bloodshed and violence. I mean, sure, if you’re not going to have wars anymore, then you definitely need something to remind of how awful and destructive they are; you need a shorthand to explain to yourself why you don’t ever want to go to war again, right?”

The line that bothers me is the “…honestly, who’s in danger of forgetting?”  There are very few veterans of the great wars remaining. The movies, books and all the dramatizations are all that we do have left, as their memories will literally not be here any longer.  As well, she states that she’s beginning to feel like the poppy has become a ‘tacit agreement’ to all of our military’s activities (Afghanistan etc.).

Despite what she may think, the members of our military do not go anywhere our government doesn’t send them. They are there because our government believes there is some reason for fighting, defending or aiding someone.  If you disagree with the government, so be it, but do not forget that those men and women are there as our representatives and doing their jobs. Something admittedly few, including the author, are willing to perform. I don’t want to participate in harming anyone either.

To say, “I’m shocked by its (the military culture’s) enthusiasm for tactics and weapons that seem frightening beyond comprehension.”  is naive. If they weren’t enthusiastic about tactics or weapons, how would they perform their jobs? Even the least violent would agree that sending troops into any situation without knowing their equipment or that of their opponents as well as their strategies is fatal and grossly incompetent.

Next, she is tired of seeing the memes about refraining from hanging Christmas decorations, selling Christmas stuff before Remembrance Day because it is not dishonouring veterans, it is the Legion trying to ‘shame’  and manipulate folk about what they put up at their private residences. To those who would refute this by saying, ‘you have the freedom to have Christmas due to veterans,’ she says that if the Nazis had won, it would be the other cultural holidays that we would miss. Sure, but only on their terms and for all you know, no decorations at all. It is about a simple thing like respect – not overwhelming a solemn date with frivolity for two weeks. And there would certainly be a whole host of things you’d miss before Christmas decorations.

In all actuality, I agree with some of her points about the military – its unfair treatment of women, protection of high-ranking officers and the operations it participates in. But truly, this is not what the poppy is intended to represent. If that is how it is being seen, I would say that we need to educate the populace versus not wearing it or changing it (white poppy as she suggests). But to her final point – we do have the freedom to wear or not wear the poppy, and it is to the veterans that we owe this freedom.

One Comment leave one →
  1. November 18, 2013 9:50 PM

    I must admit that for years I was amongst those who purposely did not wear a poppy. I would attend the services at the cenotaph, and bow my head while the bugle played and the moments of silence, but definitely had mixed feelings about the poppy itself. That is, until a few years ago when friends of ours lost their son in Afghanistan on Easter Sunday. Since then, I’ve felt compelled to show respect for their sacrifice on behalf of our country. It is not for the politicians, it is not a show of support for military action or violence. For me, it is a simple symbol of respect for the men and women who serve their country, and a thank you to those who have lost loved ones. I could not look those proud parents in the eye and offer condolences and thanks, while refusing the simple act of support that is wearing a poppy.

    It is not much, but it is the least I can do when we meet once a year at the cenotaph. I leave my poppy there at the end of the service. A small token beside the other larger memorial wreaths. An individual poppy for the many individual sacrifices made. Lest we forget all the individual pain that comes from the overwhelming horror that is war.

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