Hey guys, today, I'm here to talk to you about poppies. Specifically, the red one that you wear on your lapel at around this time of year if you live in certain countries.
(I'm talking about the one with the really long needle that inevitably falls off so you are forced to buy another one, but hey, it's all to support the veterans! Also, tip: push the end of the needle through the edge of the flower, and it won't fall off. Genius!)
Anyway, I just wanted to put in my two cents in the whole "debate". There are some people out there who object to wearing red poppies. Now, I can understand if you are in, say, the Republic of Ireland, or are a very recent immigrant who feels absolutely no attachment to the sacrifices of Canadian (or British, or other British allies') soldiers especially from the First World War, but also other battles since. I am fine with that.
But what really makes me angry is when people start using Remembrance Day as an anti-war day. Like, a forum for current politics.
You know what? Remembrance Day ceremonies (if you actually go to them, and most of these objectors don't) don't glorify death, as many object. At least, none of the ones that I have ever been to have, and I have gone to a ceremony on November 11th ever since I was literally a babe in arms. They are respectful of death. Yes, they use the words "supreme sacrifice" far too often, and sometimes the presenter's take on history is a bit shaky ("When we fought the GERMANS" like they were solely at fault and fighting alone against the entire world in both world wars). Yes, they don't question the validity of the justification for going to war, but they respect the men who died for their country all the same.
Although we do honour all veterans since the First World War, Canadians haven't exactly participated in a whole lot of controversial wars (unlike in the States with Vietnam and Iraq). You may not believe in the mission in Afghanistan (and, uh, before you rant about it, can you double-check your facts and make sure you're not angry about Iraq by mistake? PLZkthanks), but that's still no reason to disrespect all soldiers, point blank. Even if you are fervently anti-war, can you not at least summon up a modicum of decency to respect people like the Canadian soldiers who liberated Holland, which was being slowly starved (quite literally) by Axis forces during the Second World War? For (and this feels like a cheap shot, but it has to be said) the men who fought Hitler and his allies? If you are anti-war, I'm pretty sure you're probably anti-Hitler. I'm just saying. So have respect for the guys who helped take him down.
I should also take a moment to talk about my own background. Yes, I come from a military family. My father's a Canadian military engineer, now retired, who served in the Gulf War. My mother is British, and my grandmother still lives in England, and she lived through the Second World War (out near Manchester, I believe). My father's mother is a Dutch War bride, from the Holland that Canadian troops liberated from the Axis.
(I also had a Great-Uncle who lost a leg during the First World War when a grenade was thrown into his trench and he had the choice of doing nothing and letting everyone there get killed or stamping down upon it, absorbing the impact, and losing a leg/possibly dying.)
Perhaps these family facts make me biased. Perhaps they make me able to see through other people's bullshit.
Furthermore, if you're all about the justifications of war (like, "we shouldn't be honoring the guys who fought an unjust war!"), the First World War was fought on rather... strange justifications. Almost everyone acknowledges this. But that doesn't change the fact that thousands and thousands of our men died an ocean away from their homes, fighting for their King and country. Look, blame "the Man" all you want, but have a little respect for the people on the ground, guys.
(I can understand if you're from Quebec and your great-grandfather was drafted against his will to fight for "England's War", though. The Quebecois at least objected, riotously, and pleaded their case at the time... which, incidentally, was one of the reasons that Prime Minister Borden justified giving women the vote in Canada in Federal elections - you could vote if you had a man in the war. So you could vote for his Conscription Bill, obviously, but it's because of the contingencies of war that women enjoy the political power they have today in our country.)
And as for those people selling white poppies "for peace"... I understand the sentiment. I really do. And I'm still torn about the idea of wearing both a red poppy for remembrance and a white poppy for peace. It's a neat idea. Except that most people DON'T wear both. They wear the white one. And it politicizes things. And remember: the purpose of selling those lovely red poppies (by donation) is to help veteran's services. (Another thing that pisses me off: people who rob the poppy sellers. I'm beginning to feel old when I feel the need to exclaim" Now what is this society coming to?") Where does the money paid for white poppies go? I've never seen it publicized (but I'm willing to be informed, if anybody reading knows). Making Remembrance Day into a debate about the merits of war vs peace is silly, and it's taking money away from the veterans by discouraging people to display the red poppy.
By the way, guys, the vast majority of these soldiers were not fighting because they WANTED TO. They weren't fighting because it was "fun", or because they liked being violent. They were fighting for the same thing as you: peace. And guess what? They succeeded. More or less.
Veterans get enough flak as it is. They need all the support that they can get. And it's one day, guys. Seriously. Have respect for ONE DAY, hell, even the ONE MINUTE (or two) of Remembrance at 11:00 this Thursday. Just be quiet for those two minutes of silence, and have respect. Go back to campaigning for peace afterwards, after having respect for the men you died for YOUR cause.
Hell, even create an international day for peace! If there isn't one already. And sell your white poppies then. I'd buy one. Just don't do it by disrespecting your elders and countrymen.
I'm just going to end with a little poem that's always read on Remembrance Day ceremonies, and when read properly, I always get shivers. (Hint, don't pause at the end of the lines: pause at the end of the sentences. In fact, I'm going to shake things up and ignore the traditional stanza divisions, and write out the full sentences. Pause at the end of every line here.)
In Flanders' fields the poppies blow, between the crosses, row on row that mark our place.
And in the sky the larks, still bravely singing, fly, scarce heard amidst the guns below.
We are the dead.
Short days ago we lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, loved, and were loved.
And now we lie in Flander's Fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe.
To you from failing hands we throw the torch.
Be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die we shall not rest.
Though poppies grow,
In Flanders' fields.
-Lt. Col. John McCrae, 1915
(That turned out to be a really long and serious post after being prompted by a series of stories in the National Post over breakfast. Anyway, thoughts?)