In the USA, the 11th of November is Veteran’s Day. In the UK and most of the Commonwealth, its Remembrance Day- originally commemorating the ceasefire of 11/11/1918 and now remembering everyone who’s put on the Queen’s uniform. The visible symbol of Remembrance Day is the red paper poppy, sold by the Royal British Legion and worn by millions in the weeks leading up to the date itself.
Those poppies were inspired by Lt-Col John McCrae’s poem “In Flanders Fields” and have been around since 1921 in the UK. Interestingly, although they don’t seem to be as common in the USA, they actually originated there – YWCA worker Moina Michael made the first one from silk in 1918 and the American Legion adopted it in 1920. It was American poppy sellers who brought the idea to Britain.
Unfortunately, in recent years, the poppy has become a controversial symbol in all the wrong ways. There have always been those who refuse to wear it for political reasons, like an extremist faction of the Glasgow Celtic football club’s supporters, but now most of the problems are coming from the poppy’s misguided supporters. It’s become common to launch online attacks on any public figure who appears without one, including some high profile TV presenters and the occasional politician. BBC presenter Jon Snow has called this “poppy fascism” and I think he’s absolutely right.
I spent most of my adult life in the British Army. That means my sympathy for Celtic’s pro-IRA “Green Brigade”, or the Islamic nutcases who burn wreaths at war memorials, is limited to say the least. These people are obnoxious fanatics – but it’s not their dislike of poppies that makes them obnoxious; it’s their support of terrorism. Would cheering for PIRA or al Qaida be any less objectionable if you wore a poppy while doing it? I don’t think so.
In any case, these nutters are extreme examples. Most people who choose not to wear a poppy have reasons of their own. Some feel it’s a symbol of support for British involvement in current wars, while some are pacifists and oppose all war. Some donate to the Royal British Legion but choose not to display that fact. I don’t actually wear a poppy myself because I live in Germany and, as the British military presence here shrinks, they’re becoming very hard to get a hold of. Obviously, nobody can accuse me of not supporting the RBL because I’m a member of it, but the fact is nobody’s obliged to support it. Do I sympathise with people who don’t want to wear a poppy? No, I don’t. I find their views at best wrong – it’s a non-political symbol that’s not connected to current foreign policy, for example – and at worst revolting, but that’s not my business. It’s theirs.
The soldiers whose service we commemorate with the poppy didn’t fight so that the misguided or naïve could be bullied into fake displays of public loyalty. In fact that’s what they were fighting against. A climate of intimidation, where people wear symbols because they’re afraid not to, is more fitting for Hitler’s Germany or Saddam’s Iraq than to a modern democracy. As service people and veterans we might look down on those who prefer not to recognize what we did and do, but one of the things we defend is their right to be wrong.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.