Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Gonna Lay Down My Sword And Shield

The United States has Veterans Day. Britain has Remembrance Day. Unlike the U.S. holiday, Remembrance Day is not a government holiday--everybody goes to work if it's a weekday. But it's in your face nonetheless in the form of plastic poppies growing like weeds on lapels and collars, purchased for the price of a chugger contribution to the Royal British Legion.

While watching football over the weekend, I noticed that no less than 100 percent of the studio commentators for one match were wearing plastic poppies. As an experiment, I just turned on BBC News 24 this moment, and both of the on-screen anchors were wearing plastic poppies. If you walk down a given city street this time of year, you will notice that at least half of the people you see are wearing the poppies. (The always clever Time Out London, in its "Lies To Tell Tourists" column a couple of years ago, urged Londoners to tell tourists that any person wearing a plastic poppy had actually killed a German in combat.)

But I won't.

I have the greatest respect for veterans and their sacrifices. I do like to know that people who come back from war with physical, psychological or emotional wounds are taken care of. I will give money to the cause. And I'm aware of the cultural significance of the Flandrian poppy in reference to the horror of World War I. But I won't wear the poppy. I guess I resent the overtones of it--the suggestion that if I don't wear the poppy I'm somehow disrespectful of veterans. And to me, the poppy remains a symbol of war, rather than the peace we should hope for. Give me a Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament peace symbol any day.

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Blogger zeditor said...

Yes, it's kinda like the flag pin here in the States. If you don't wear one, you're assumed to be unpatriotic.

Don't we have more important things to think about than which (made in China, no doubt) cheap lapel ornament people wear (or don't), and why (or why not)?

1:44 PM  
Blogger Middle Kid said...

Well said. Peace out.

2:35 PM  
Blogger Owen said...

The Poppy is not a symbol of war, or peace, it is a symbol of thanks.

Remembrance day honours both those that fell and the veterans - in effect a combination of Memorial day and Veterans day in the US.

No one thinks that if you don't wear one you are disrespectful of veterans. The wearing of the poppy is positive in tenor, and shows your remembrance of the sacrifices made by those involved.

You know, it's peculiarly American to look at things in this glass-half-empty kind of way. Look at the response to the Republicans' "Country First" campaign - everyone starts talking about whether the implication is that Obama is un-American, or unpatriotic.

There are no such overtones or implications with the RBL poppy appeal.

I for one am grateful for the sacrifices made, and once a year I will wear a poppy to show that. I don't need to wear a poppy to be grateful, and I'm not just grateful once a year, but the act of remembrance is an important one.

After all, why does the USA celebrate Independence Day so vigorously?

10:27 AM  
Anonymous pseudonymous in nc said...

I'm so so late to this, but I've never seen the poppy that way. If you go to any town, but especially the small villages and see the memorials erected in the aftermath of the Great War, and the number of repeated surnames, the overriding emotion is of loss and waste and what war did to those communities.

(There was a C4 series from a few years back called "Not Forgotten" about those memorials, and the civic efforts that went into raising them. Or you can watch Blackadder Goes Forth.)

10:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Zeditor, Poppies are produced in the UK by the Royal British Legion. They are not sold and only donations are given in return for one. The money raised is used to help the veterens and dependants of those wounded and killed in conflicts around the world.They are not worn for any nationalistic or patriotic purpose,(unlike wearing a flag on your lapel), only as a show of respect for the lost generations thar went before us.

8:47 PM  

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