Every year, I buy two or three or even four blood-red artificial poppies in the first ten days of November, at the cost of two or three bucks apiece. Why so many? Because the little sods fiendishly detach themselves from my lapel at their first opportunity, and are gone with the wind, but I personally would feel naked without one at the cenotaph on Remembrance Day.
Now, of all the cultural icons to become a point of contention, I’d have thought Remembrance Day poppies should be just about the last. But there we are – some people see them as a symbol of the glorification of war, or a jingoistic celebration of victory, or a tacit statement of support for current conflicts. Some people see hypocrisy and sanctimony in the poppies prominently worn by public figures or tv presenters; some people chafe against the social pressure to wear a poppy, or risk disapproving stares and public shaming.
I think they can all shut up, especially during the two minutes of silence.
For me, the poppy has never been about glory or victory or honour or love of country. I wear it for grief, for sorrow and pity, for those who went to war, and those who were left behind, and those innocents over whom war rolled like a tsunami. Frankly, you can stuff the prayers and platitudes, but give me the piper and the bugle, the pibroch and the Last Post. And give me my blood-red poppy—hell, give me three or four of them a year.
And now, in honour of the day:
Edited to add: my colleague Ed Clint has put up a relevant and wonderful post, at https://skepticink.com/incredulous/2013/11/11/what-veterans-know/