Why I Don’t Wear A Poppy

I’m going to keep this really brief. I don’t have the time or the energy to “fight my corner” with verbose, studiously-referenced clauses and such. So here goes… I used to wear a poppy every year. My Mum would buy four; one each for my parents, me and my brother. Once I was too young to know why I was wearing it, then I was old enough to think it was the decent thing to do. Until recently, actually, I wore a poppy – but only ever on 11/11 itself.

But the reason we wear poppies is to “remember the dead of war”. What makes me uncomfortable is the fact that the number of dead people we are meant to remember is rising year by year. It would seem that, contrary to the messages our politicians shove on us every year, we have learned no lessons at all. People are still dying in wars that are fought by kids for politicians who have probably never held a gun, let alone fired one at “the enemy”.

I’m not wearing a poppy this year because I remember the dead of war most days without wearing one. I remember them when I see lying statesmen make ever-more elaborate excuses for invading somewhere else that has some kind of financial or strategic benefit. I’d wear a white poppy (for peace) but you never see them sold anywhere, do you? Because that particular cause has no national and moral marketing machine behind them.


Like that TV newsreader who doesn’t wear one because she is patron for many other charities she isn’t allowed to mention on air, due to impartiality laws, I think it’s a little disgusting that this one cause – the Royal British Legion’s Poppy Appeal – is given blanket coverage on all channels everywhere ever. Why not other causes? Because it’s about Our Boys, it’s about Heroes. War – and our national guilty concious about all the ones we’ve started or participated in – is untouchable! You can’t have a go at our boys in the forces because it’s… what? Un-British? I don’t even know.

Bottom line is, everyone wears a red poppy for Remembrance Day. Kids of all ages, teenagers who don’t know or care, adults who don’t want their mates to think less of them… So many people wear them “because that’s what you do on Remembrance Day” that it almost doesn’t matter WHY we do it any longer.

No. I don’t wear one. I don’t see that coverage of our leaders honouring the dead of war before returning to their day-jobs of sending more kids off to die in new ones is something that sends a good message. Then there’s the crazy nationalist thing that’s taken root in recent years thanks to increased, normalised islamophobia and racism from the likes of UKIP, BNP, Britain First and, now, even the main political parties. The image of a poppy has been hijacked to mean “British” and it makes me want to vomit.

I have no issue if you want to wear a poppy. You can do as you like. But let’s all try to be sensible about it. Let’s not all go mad with the pompous British stereotype adoption. Remember the dead, of course. But don’t be fooled into thinking that that’s what any of this means anymore.

I’m not sure how to finish this post, really, so I’ll give the last word to Irwin from Alan Bennett’s “History Boys”:

We don’t like to admit the war was even partly our fault ’cause so many of our people died. And all the mourning’s veiled the truth. It’s not “lest we forget,” it’s “lest we remember.” That’s what all this is about — the memorials, the Cenotaph, the two minutes’ silence. Because there is no better way of forgetting something than by commemorating it.

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