Poppies

It has been a while since I have felt the urge to rant on any topic with sufficient passion to stop all the other things I should be doing in order to do so.  But this is about poppies.

Over the past few days, I have been shocked and saddened in equal measure by the cavalier arrogance of the astonishingly high number of people who do not wear a poppy for remembrance.

In addition, there has been a survey done that says that 1 in 6 people REFUSES to wear a poppy. Not can’t be bothered, not doesn’t see the need, REFUSES. The survey by Viewsbank can be found here: survey summary.

Now, I have also seen a World War One veteran bemoaning what he (and apparently many others) see as a politicisation of the poppy. He has made himself quite famous over the past twelve months, which I suppose can’t hurt, financially. His most recent tweet on the subject can be found here.

I have also seen an article from a Chelsea Pensioner saying that television presenters who refuse to wear a poppy should be fired. Which you can read here.

So there are differing views on the whys and wherefores of wearing a poppy. Here, you get my ha’penorth.

Wearing a poppy is not a political gesture. It condones no party, it espouses no ideology. It is an act of remembrance. A chance to think about all those who gave their lives in the wars this country has participated in, both 100 years ago, and more recently.

But this is part of the problem. People who like to think of themselves as pacifists say that to wear a poppy is somehow condoning the concept of war, and that wearing a white poppy is therefore the pacifist choice. It shows you remember without the acceptance of war, apparently.

Their excuse is that the money raised these days goes not only to help Chelsea Pensioners and other aged veterans of the two global conflicts of the 20th century, but also assists with rehab and housing for injured soldiers coming home from current and more recent conflicts. Thus you are supporting soldiers and the concept of an organised army if you wear one.

This is, if you will pardon the pun, poppycock.

Those 888,246 ceramic poppies outside the Tower of London, and the one on my lapel, do not represent professional soldiers, carefully trained in skills and strategy, (relatively) well-paid and (hopefully) well-cared for later. They represent ordinary people with ordinary jobs and ordinary lives who were CONSCRIPTED and sent to their deaths with no training, no protection, no chance of survival and, if they faltered in any way in that march to their clearly visible upcoming death, were just as likely to be shot by their own side.

Do you know why they wore gas masks in the trenches? Do you understand how chlorine and mustard gas work? Allow me to explain. Essentially, they irritate the lining of the lungs, causing both excruciating pain and a protective reaction to occur, whereby the body produces liquid to protect the lung lining. If you get gassed, you DROWN. Slowly. Someone who last week delivered your bread or taught your child in school.

There is nothing glorifying of anyone or anything in saying we remember the lost generation who gave their lives, frequently for no gain or benefit to either side whatsoever, in the most unmitigated random slaughter* in living memory. They were not professional soldiers, although they died in a uniform, so the State takes care of their graves (if they have one), their widows and their comrades who survived.

I, personally, have nothing but disdain for anyone who refuses to wear a poppy. It shows a woeful ignorance of the First World War, and the people who fought and died in it, and I don’t want to call people who enjoy being ignorant my friends.

*Before anyone objects, the Final Solution was not random. It was extremely well-organised.

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