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Both sides now

Comments Off on Both sides now 06 November 2017

Both sides now

It is hard to understand why the dear little poppy causes so much controversy. The symbol of the poppy is overwhelmingly positive. A nation comes together in Remembrance of those who made the ultimate sacrifice in conflict. The Royal British Legion is in my experience a quite magnificent organisation which supports veterans and their families. Where the state fails so many who have fought for our country, the RBL has more than filled in the gaps.

There is anger about so-called “poppy fascism”, a very unfortunate term given the nature of World War Two, where people appear to be dragooned into the compulsory wearing of poppies, or looked upon as somehow disrespectful if they choose not to wear them. This appears to ignore the reasons why many wars have been fought in the first place. The freedoms we enjoy today include the freedom not to wear a poppy if we don’t want to. Just because I feel very strongly about wearing one doesn’t mean I feel strongly that everyone else should. I have personal, familial history, as well as having friends and acquaintances who have served and continue to serve. My mother, father and countless other relatives lost loved ones. I have a personal duty to remember and show both respect and thanks.

Interestingly, controversy comes from both sides of the political divide, daft though it is. The left is seen to be less disposed to the annual Remembrance service and the build up to it and the right is seen to be far more supportive. My view is that this is nonsense. I have friends from many shades of political opinion, albeit none from the far right, and I cannot put everyone into a pro and anti poppy group. I have friends who dislike some aspects of Remembrance and I have friends who wholeheartedly embrace it, all with complete sincerity. One recent and highly unfortunate development recently has been exploitation of Remembrance by the far right.

Yesterday, I came across a Facebook group called something like, “I wear my poppy with pride and don’t care who it upsets and offends.” Hmm. What did this mean? A quick check at some older posts and it quickly became clear that this was a hard right, fascist group. And it does not require the intellectual qualities of a rocket scientist to work out the identity of those who might be upset and offended. The real answer is no one, barring a couple of islamist fruitcakes, is or ever has been offended by the poppy. The truth is that people of all faiths and those of none fought against fascism., people of all different creeds and colours. It was, more than anything, click bait nonsense from the far right.

And there was another crackpot organisation condemning the wearing of the white poppy. You can work out the arguments for yourself. Now, I don’t wear a white poppy but I have absolutely no problem with those who do, or those who wear both a red and white poppy. The white poppy represents Remembrance for victims of all wars, not just those in which the British Armed Forces were involved, and not just the wars resigned to history; A commitment to peace and; A refusal to celebrate or glamorise war itself. Now, you can argue about the points within that description – for example, I know of no one who has fought who celebrates or glamorises war. I suppose the defeat of fascism is worthy of celebration, the millions who died is not. And anyone who sees glamour in war has never experienced it or spoken at length with those who have.

As Remembrance day nears, it would be good if we could return to what it is actually about rather than what some claim it to be about. My family saw the dead and the dying on the streets of Bristol and Rotterdam during the war, a number of whom were members of the armed forces. They told me of innumerable acts of heroism, people giving their lives so others might be saved, so we might remain free.

We live in dangerous times, led by unstable leaders and dictators all around the world. Our country is divided, led by right wing nationalism, as we move to separate ourselves from Europe, something which will have Winston Churchill spinning in his grave. The RBL website says this: “The National Service of Remembrance, held at The Cenotaph in Whitehall on Remembrance Sunday, ensures that no-one is forgotten as the nation unites to honour all who have suffered or died in war.” Let’s also remember what the sacrifice was for. “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it,” said George Santayana. That’s the biggest lesson of all.

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