by James Anthony
In the last couple of weeks, millions of people have been wearing poppies in advance of Remembrance Day, and once again it’s kicked off the same debate I see every year. The poppy debate seems to be a hugely divisive issue, with some outright refusing to wear one, seeing it as a symbol which glorifies conflict, and some people determined to make sure everyone wears one. I’m not convinced it’s quite as contentious an issue as it often appears in the press, but it is greatly worrying that Remembrance Sunday seems to become more and more about who wears a poppy and who doesn’t – and this attitude has to stop.
The poppy was never supposed to cause political controversy. Inspired by similar poppy wearing initiatives in France, the Royal British Legion launched the first Poppy Appeal in Britain in 1921 to commemorate those who fought and died in the First World War, but many have argued against this idea from the very start. The white poppy, worn to symbolise peace as a reaction against the red poppy, has existed since 1933, showing that this debate has been going on for an awfully long time. To this day, so many of us still wear the red or white poppy, but many choose not to, arguing over what they truly represent.Continue Reading
by Robyn Banks
If I believe something, does that make it true? If you believe that the poppy is a symbol of peace and remembrance, does that mean you’re right and I’m wrong? Is the meaning of a cultural symbol decided by its creators, by the powers that be who would use it, or by the culture at large who see and understand the symbol? Or, is it simply enough to repeat something over again until it means what you want it to mean?
by Sara Helen Binney
It was November, and the school hall was packed with pupils and teachers freed from lessons. In the festive atmosphere people mingled and chattered and joked. A few nervously practiced their Bible readings; I stood, arms crossed, before a school administrator. She shook her collection box.
‘Poppy?’ she said. It wasn’t a question.
I said, ‘no.’ I doubt I was very polite – I was sixteen, angry and definite.
‘You have to wear a poppy, for the service,’ she said.
‘Why?’ I demanded.
‘Everyone has to wear a poppy.’
‘But I don’t agree with it. Can’t I refuse?’
‘You have to take a poppy – just make a donation.’
Neither of my parents had ever worn a poppy. They brought me up listening to the anti-war songs of the folk revival, and took me to CND marches while I still struggled to pronounce ‘disarmament’. But at school, saying no wasn’t an option. I eventually put a penny in the box.Continue Reading
by Lesley Grahame
Remembrance is a solemn and moving national event. Even more so this year as we look back on 100 years of wars since the beginning of the war to end all wars. I wear my red poppy with sorrow and my white poppy with hope.
Whatever we feel or know about the horrors of war, Remembrance Day itself day is about a generation who wanted to make a difference, and put their own bodies in mortal and horrific danger to do so. They trusted their leaders, if not to keep them safe, at least to keep them doing the right thing, and perhaps to take care of their families, and themselves if they survived. Community solidarity through shared grief is almost palpable at some Remembrance Events, as we are reminded that no family escapes if war comes to their county.
Few would deny the trauma or tragedy of war, or the need to help survivors, yet these can get lost in the pomp and ceremony, or worse, the glorification of war.Continue Reading