The poppy problem

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With the seemingly endless list of current battles and wars that are waged on foreign soil and instigated by western governments, it isn’t difficult to fathom why some have ceased to wear a poppy.

The artificial and decorative flower has been a manifestation of Remembrance Sunday and the 11th of November since 1921, and was originally introduced to respect the sacrifice made by the soldiers that gave their lives in the First World War. It was thought that nothing so destructive could ever follow, and the motto “never again” followed in the minds of those who wore the first poppies.

With the Second World War in our history books and a near-constant threat of a third on the horizon, as well as modern conflicts destroying the Middle East, it seems now to be a false sentiment. In place of a genuine respect and necessary fear of history repeating itself, there seems to be a more aggressive need for everyone to adorn themselves with the flower.

Outrage spread across the nation at the news that FIFA had decided to ban poppies – or rather, that the football organisation bans any political, religious, or commercial messages on shirts. In the face of this scandal, there have been numerous famous faces that have stopped wearing the poppy.

Since 2006, newsreader Jon Snow has refused to wear one whilst on air, whereas Carole Vorderman has worn one while in Australia on the newest series of I’m a Celebrity. Snow citied in an online statement a refusal to wear anything that represents any kind of proclamation, from an Aids ribbon to a Marie Curie flower, Jon Snow refuses them all –– and refers to a ‘poppy fascism’ that rears its ugly head whenever someone is seen without one emblazoned on their chest.
At this point in time, it seems that the poppy has become another physical thing to wear in order to prove to other people that you care. You are a good citizen for wearing a poppy, and tutting at those who have not got one emblazoned on their chest apparently makes you even better.

You cannot tell people how to grieve, and you cannot tell people how they should properly respect those that have served for us. Remembrance is not something that must be worn on your shirt for everyone else to see – it should be truly felt and appreciated, not displayed purely for the sake of doing so.

Mhairi Black, the SNP MP, set an example I would seek to follow in wearing a white poppy in order to mourn not only those in the two world wars, but those in wars that are less publicised and those that are currently on-going. I may agree with Katie Hopkins in her argument that wearing a poppy is purely about a sense of respect and gratitude to those that have served, but it is naïve to think that that is all it is – even if that is all it should be.

Lest we forget.

Elise Middleton
(Image courtesy of The Guardian)

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