This year I didn’t wear a poppy like I usually do because even the Legion’s in on it, with the campaign launched in Basra!
My immediate reply to that was-
I’m always a bit torn on poppies, I am happy to show solidarity with vets who have been screwed by the govt and for vets of WWII which did come down to desperate self defence. But the Legion is not in any way anti war and as you say this year were more political than ever. There are white poppies
but that is taken as an insult by some old soldiers but it is not meant as such. I think actually I might post this, see what people think.
So I’m making this into a post because I did mean to write about this a few days ago when I bought a poppy off a stall in a Co-op branch and Charlie reminded me of the conundrum. I bought one, but I was acutely aware of not being all that happy about it, as I said if I display it (and it is on my bag for now) it is about showing solidarity with veterans but not to support war or any political scheme for one. But it has to said it has become a bit like the British version of the flag lapel pin thing in the US, there is pressure to wear one and its symbolism is polluted by pro war establishment associations. I’ve been to quite a few Remembrance Day ceremonies at cenotaphs in the past because of either my dad’s or brother’s involvement. Overall I would have to say the phenomenon is not one likely to mitigate against further wars, certainly there is co-option by current military and politicians to hijack human decency and peer pressure for political purposes. The whole ceremonial aspect is solemn but in a martial fashion, uniforms and even weapons are on display. It’s as if the lower ranks are being allowed a moment of remembrance but it must not in any way get in the way of the next war the ruling class have planned. That’s the feeling I get from it and the poppies in turn carry that same undercurrent. I think remembrance would naturally carry with it some deep regret at war and a seeking not repeat it but that has been unnaturally de-emphasised from the current practice. So the red poppy and its attendant ceremonies are lacking at best and at worst they may be used to to do precisely the opposite of genuine remembrance for the war dead?
However this year the British Legion as Charlie wrote launched their poppy appeal from a PR op in Basra, which is an active violent occupation of another country, a war enabled with lies and which is now the albatross around New Labour’s neck. So they have crossed what debatable lines I have traced above, they have politicised something that there was some consensus over (albeit uneasy given previous Legion misdemeanours, they have for example taken money from arms manufacturers). So it is they and not anyone else who is devaluing the symbolism, because of peer pressure or wishes to show a shared remembrance the poppy persists, if you don’t wear one it can easily be read as disinterest or ignorance, a lack of something does not connote a considered ethical debate even if the lack is precisely because of that. But certainly the Legion are forcing something upon wearers that wearers do not necessarily endorse. There is the white poppy, which will probably engender some questions and without explanation could cause offence, but certainly the red poppy is being made to be very problematic, it is co-opted into cultural propaganda. I think I’m leaning towards a white poppy (smallest order £3.50 + £3.00 p&p for 5 though!) or none as Charlie is doing. The British Legion is never going to be a hotbed of anti-imperialism or the like but at the very least it could not actively help ongoing wars and weapon sales (although I suppose it’s good strategy, it’ll keep them in business).