Ok so. It’s that time of year again.
A special time. One built on remembrance and perhaps a little bit of respect.
I’ll be honest here. I do wear a poppy. I do observe the silence. I’ll go one step further. During the silence I remember people who die in wars. I do it to remind myself war isn’t a very nice thing. That. To me. Is the whole point of it.
Let’s keep it simple here. People die in wars. One day a year an act of silence allows us to remember that.
So why bother writing about it?
Well somewhere over the last 93 years the idea of remembrance has somehow been appropriated by the media, the powers that be and the flag waving mouth breathers to somehow represent something else. Something unpleasant and even sinister.
Nowadays the run up to remembrance day is a media circus that seeks to glorify war and not actually remember those it kills.
First of all there was the church. Stepping in and demanding that the while thing should be done on a special Christian Sunday service too. Never mind that preachers in the pulpit waxed to the max to send people off to die 97 years ago. Never mind that war was something that caused many to question, and even lose, the faith they might have had. We now have this big pomp and circumstance on a Sunday when the very politicians who regularly send people to kill and die needlessly stand, sombre faced, scoring political points around the cenotaph while the church, which has been equally culpable in mass murder, pretends the whole fucking thing was their idea.
Nowadays the press have joined in too. Putting poppies on the front page for weeks before the event and going all frothy mouthed at anyone who doesn’t want to join their crusade. Wear your poppy with pride they scream. Do it for our boys out there! No thanks. Poppies were never meant to be about pride. There’s no pride to be gained killing and mutilating people or being killed or mutilated yourself. You wear it to remember that fact, not to encourage it.
In the 1920’s mothers and widows of the dead tried to stop this subversion of remembrance by creating White ‘peace poppies’. People still wear them but, even though they’re supposed to convey a similar message you get a lot of questions and, sometimes, abuse if you can find and wear one. While the red poppy has been happily appropriated by the establishment to support war, the white poppy makes you a pariah.
It gets worse though. these days the media circus surrounding remembrance day has come to represent the most jingoistic and commercialised unpleasantness you can imagine. Every sporting event in the UK demands a minute’s silence. OK. Fair enough. But WHY? We already have a 2 minute silence. It takes place on November 11th. Why do we need to cheapen that by having one the weekend before,the weekend after and (as I mentioned earlier) on Sunday too? Last weekend at the Swansea Liverpool game they unveiled a big fuck-off poppy on the pitch… why? When did this become about how big your fucking poppy is?
This year the storm in a teacup surrounds the fact that England weren’t supposed to have poppies embroidered into their shirts for the weekend international game. Well excuse me if I don’t join the thronging lynch mob here. The last people I’d want to “remember” the war dead are the likes of John Terry and Frank Lampard. Who drunkenly abused grieving Americans in the wake of September 11th 2001. Not only that but the game is on November 12th. You know? The DAY AFTER the rest of the country will be remembering the dead. After November 11th you DON’T NEED TO WEAR A POPPY let alone make a fashion statement out of it.
But fashion is what it’s become. Bling poppies are the new fashion statement for X-Factor and Strictly fashionistas looking to set themselves apart. Never mind that this means that they’re no longer concerned with charity but worse – its become about looking good, showing off and setting yourself apart from the crowd. That rumbling over there is the fields of France swelling with the people who never had the privilege of graves turning over in the ground.
So yeah. I wear a poppy. I wear one for the same reason I ever did. To remember the war dead. If you feel like joining me then do it. But to be frank I’m actually ashamed to be wearing a poppy half the time. I see the papers with their little poppies, the footballers showing them off and the X-Factor judges with their jewel encrusted accessories and I feel sick. Take my advice. If you do fancy wearing a poppy and observing the silence tomorrow do it for the right reasons. And try to remember what Wilfred Owen said about war
Oh, Death was never enemy of ours!
We laughed at him, we leagued with him, old chum.
No soldier’s paid to kick against His powers.
We laughed, — knowing that better men would come,
And greater wars: when each proud fighter brags
He wars on Death, for lives; not men, for flags.