I have been accused many times over the years of disrespecting our “war heroes” by wearing a white poppy on armistice day. I’ve been baffled by this. Why does the hope for peace disrespect those who have died in battle? Surely it is the deepest respect?
If wars are wrong, then our soldiers are too. If war is pointless, then they gave their lives for nothing. If wars are about greed, then righteousness is called into question. Is that what you think I’m saying by wearing my white poppy? If that’s what you think I am saying, no wonder you are angry. But that’s not what I’m saying. Not exactly.
My white poppy is a remembrance of all victims of war. To all armed forces personnel, whatever side they are fighting on. And the civilians who are killed in wars. All those who have been imprisoned and victimised for resisting war. For the child soldiers and conscripts who have been forced to fight. My poppy is a challenge to those who try to glamourise war. It is a challenge to those who make money from war.
I am not a pacifist. I believe that sometimes violence is the only way to defend rights, freedoms and ways of life. But I do strongly believe that there are better ways to resolve conflict than war. And I believe that there are too many people with a vested interest in war. Those people are not our soldiers. Or anybody else’s soldiers. They are the politicians who want to prove a point. They are the states greedy for power. They are the armaments manufacturers and their investors and shareholders who grow rich with war.
As for our soldiers. I do not think they are stupid, or wrong. They are doing their job. They do it bravely, and with the noblest of intentions. But wouldn’t it be so much better that they didn’t have to do it at all?
Things you might not know about Remembrance Poppie
- The White Poppy was first brought out by the Co-operative Women’s Guild in 1933. The original message of Remembrance Day after World War I was “never again”, but as this meaning slipped away, the Women’s Guild responded with their peace message.
- The red poppy was first used in 1921. These days most red poppies in the UK are distributed by the Royal British Legion. Funds raised go to current and ex British military personnel. They have trademarked the iconic 2 petal poppy.
- The British Legion are closed linked to and sponsored by Lockheed Martin, one of the world’s largest arms company and manufacturer of Trident.
- Jon Snow, journalist and Channel 4 News presenter does not wear a red poppy on screen. He is much criticised for it, but stands by it.
- In 2010 a group of British Army veterans protested that the Poppy appeal had become a war cry. They marched to the Cenotaph under the banner “Never Again”.