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Poppies & Remembrance Again II

November 11, 2008

poppy_squareGestures are difficult things to get right. For instance, it’s too easy to give unnecessary offence, or to take too much pleasure in just being awkward. And Remembrance is a sombre occasion, laced with all sorts of loss and misfortune, so it’s particularly sensitive.

I chose to wear the white poppy not to belittle the sacrifices of so so many servicemen and women, nor just to be different for the sake of it. Indeed I wanted to wear it last year but felt that I needed to wear the red before the white. And I only contacted Jonny after having thought about it at length again.

I wore it because I abhor war and the way governments must glorify it in order to ensure a steady supply of recruits for the next one. I hate the way war is tied to the economy – and how weapons manufacturing and sales are necessary to support our standard of living.

It grieves me to see how at the official memorials men and women who are victims of greed and the violent impulses of human beings are lauded as heroes to ensure there will be more for the new wars that will inevitably come.

And it grieves me that for too many people the lack of opportunity elsewhere means that the army, navy or airforce is seen as the surest route out of poverty.

But the protest of the white poppy is complicated. You see given that we have a whole economy that is dependent on war, and we send thousands of people to war every year, we have a responsibility to them if and when they return.

On Sunday evening I listened to Radio 4’s ‘File on Four‘ programme which considered the conundrum of why so many former soldiers suffer mental and emotional difficulties after war and are ill-served by the NHS. It also presented the startling statistic that up to 12,000 people in UK prisons are ex-services. Our neglect of those who serve in the army, navy or airforce, in some cases protecting our freedoms and in others simply serving our economy, is a national disgrace.

And it is not helped by the soppy sentimentalism of ‘our boys’ that was so much a feature of last week’s parade. Nor is it helped by woolly liberals like me protesting from the comfort of my middle class home, with the freedom to blog my complaint.

So I wore the white poppy and made a donation to the RBL.

Incidentally, the result of wearing the white poppy was three or four serious conversations about how and why we do Remembrance, about abhorrence of war and a request from several people to get more of the poppies for next year. Some spoke of why they wear the poppy, some said they had never thought about it.

And, as this is Armistace Day and we are now at the 90th Anniversary of the signing, it’s appropriate to remember the hell of war. I listened to an outstanding Radio 4 programme on a walk along the crookedshore called Nobody Told Me to Oil My Boots, where Anthony Sher narrates the WWI story of the poet Isaac Rosenberg. Harrowing.

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From → Reflection

4 Comments
  1. I struggle too with this day, but think that in the end there are good theological reasons for remeberance day. I’ve posted a little about them on my blog.

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  1. marramgrass » Blog Archive » Remembrance.
  2. Poppies & Remembrance Again Again « crookedshore
  3. crookedshore » Poppies & Remembrance Again Again

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