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Poppies & Remembrance Again Again

November 8, 2009

whitepoppy2I’ll be wearing a white poppy again today, just as I did last year (and here). My annual struggles with Remembrance Sunday go on, but this year it seems there is more space for debate, but also perhaps, less tolerance overall, if this piece in the Guardian is to be believed. It says,

In 1968, no British soldier died on active service. But that turned out to be not just the first but the only year since 1945 when the claim could be made. The uncomfortable question is whether our way of remembering war, or at least war’s casualties, has contributed to making that possible. The pacifist White Poppy movement, and some Christian thinkers, would argue that it has, that there is a hypocrisy about it that is reflected in the way the dead are honoured while the last military hospital is shut and those who survive with physical or mental damage have to fight for adequate care. They detect a whiff of militarism in the way civilian dead are ignored, and jingoism in the refusal to recognise that many of the enemy died believing they were fighting for freedom too. But above all, they are offended by the sight of politicians who have embroiled us in war laying wreathes at the Cenotaph in memory of the young men and women who have died fighting it. This is the final corruption of the original intention of remembrance: it has not prevented war happening again. Worse, it can be seen as a balm to the consciences of all of us who have failed to stop it.

The link  to the Ekklesia report is also worth following. The abstract of the report says,

Remembrance Day needs to be re-imagined to make it more inclusive, more truthful and more meaningful for future generations, says this report. This would include an honest acknowledgement that some did “die in vain”, an end to “selective remembrance”, a positive stress on peacemaking, and making Armistice Day a bank holiday. The report follows the death of the ‘last Tommy’, Harry Patch from World War 1, who sadly described current patterns of Remembrance Day as “just show business”. Remembrance has been ‘cheapened’ by a failure to back up words with action, particularly when it comes to successive Government’s care for war veterans, but also the lack of resources put into peacebuilding.

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