Friday, 11 November 2011


It comes before a fall

It’s a deadly sin

It goes hand in hand with prejudice

It’s brightly coloured

It’s a bunch of lions hanging out on the plains

It's an old man's beer

Whatever you think, I am currently feeling proud. Of quite a few things, which I shan’t go in to here, but most specifically of my poppy pin and paper poppy. I am proud to be wearing them.
It doesn’t make me a war-mongering fascist, a religious zealot nor a raving nationalist. It is not a political statement, in fact, for me it’s quite the opposite. What I’m saying here isn’t new, original or an improvement on anything else that’s been said countless times before. But I’m going to say it anyway.
The boys who lost their lives in the Great War were not there for their own political reasons. They were there at the orders of a higher power, and not a spiritual one. The boys and girls who contributed to the World War II war effort did not participate because they wanted to, but because they were ordered to, or had to, to survive. The men and women out there in the Middle East aren’t risking their lives for fun, but because men and women in offices of power have sent them there or created a world that requires them to sign up to the army.
And that is why I won’t listen to anyone that tells me I can’t wear a poppy and neither should a team of footballers, if they want to wear one, that is. That is why the newsreels about sporting associations denying people the opportunity to wear them during play exasperates me, images of people burning poppies saddens me and Facebook status updates about people going crazy about criminal records over spray-painted poppies bores me. Come on, people. Burning your own property isn’t illegal. If you bought the poppy, you own the poppy and if you want to burn it, fine. More fool you. You clearly have money to burn – quite literally. Spray painting a poppy on the side of a building, any building, is criminal damage. Get a grip! Posting posters full of expletives on your online profile aimed at people who don't want to wear poppies, for whatever reason, are entirely counter productive. I understand your frustrations, but that's not what wearing a poppy is about. Let's not let these issues overshadow the real message. Poppies aren't meant to divide us, it's meant to unite us, and create empathy across geographic and cultural divides.
I’m not alone in having grandparents and great grandparents that have fought, and some of them died, in the wars our leaders have taken us in to, even on opposing sides at some points. I’m not alone in having friends at war, as we speak. I’m not alone in having a sense of pride in, and respect for, those people that risked, or continue to risk, their lives in dangerous situations that benefit our right to freedom and safety.
Whatever your thoughts are on the tactical balls-up that was the First World War, the insane crimes against humanity that have occurred during wartime, the crazy political stances that have started wars and the stubbornness of humankind that continues to let war happen in this day and age, suggesting that wearing a poppy is bad thing amazes me.
It’s just an enamel badge, a piece of coloured paper, or even nowadays, a plastic wristband. But it stands for so much more. Everyone knows that wearing a poppy is about remembering those who died for my freedom to write this, who fought for equality and human rights (though we are still a long way off solving that problem), or those who just ran at a wall of bullets because they were told to and had no other choice. They created a world where it's ok to say so if you don't want to wear poppy. Ironic really.
Those that suggest it’s about religion, politics or nationalism may be right in a minority of cases. But for the majority it’s just about simple, understated respect.
I will wear my poppies with pride (yes both of them), I will observe a two minute silence. I will remember those who died, I will watch the remembrance service and will shed a tear when Queenie places her wreath at the Cenotaph in Whitehall, and if people don’t like it, well tough. That’s their right to do so and mine to ignore them.
For them. For now. Forever

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