Tomorrow is Remembrance Day / Armistice Day / Veterans’ Day. In the UK at least it’s become expected that one will wear a Red Poppy, to show one’s support of our former and current armed forces, and the sacrifices they have and do make, including far too often their lives. So much an expectation that it attracts comment – and attack – if those in public life don’t wear one.
Imagine a chat show host, a newscaster, politician, sportsman … anybody in the public eye who dared not to wear one; the criticism and vitriol which would be brought to bear don’t even bear thinking about. In which light, I was hugely gratified to see Frankie Boyle on the Jonathan Ross show recently, wearing a white poppy. Someone who is already such a target has little to lose; I like to think also that he genuinely supports the goals to which it pertains.
Reason one . . . loathing compulsion and in-group mentalitites.
“The Glorious Dead” . . . what an horrific concept. Dead isn’t glorious; it’s dead. Gone, no more to participate in the world, nothing further to contribute, you’re rotting in the ground, or scattered to the wind, and everything you ever could have done has either been done, or left forever undone. That’s not glorious.
Neither, I’m afraid to say, is the manner of their deaths. Oh, the causes may be just, and laudable, but sitting for months in a rat-infested trench, watching your extremities rot off your still-living body, starving to death, taking occasional shots at people a hundred metres away who are far more your equal than opposite; that’s not glorious. Bombing civilians, and destroying centuries of history and beauty, whether in Dresden or Coventry; that’s not glorious.
Sending an entire generation of American youth off to fight a non-extistent enemy in Vietnam, burning villages alive, raping and pillaging as though it were the 11th Century in Europe; that’s not glorious.
Guiding bombs into Baghdad, twenty years apart, by laser; that’s not glorious.
The sooner we start to acknowledge that it’s not glorious, or wonderful, or admirable, to go to war, but rather that it’s a failure of the entire human species, and while it may grudgingly sometimes be necessary, it should be a last after last after oh-good-grief last resort, the better for us all. We shouldn’t idolise the victims of our going to war, whether the “enemy” or our own troops; we should pity them. Teaching (mainly boys) children to aspire to this monstrosity is one of the most vile, obscene, unconscionable acts perpetrated against our future.
Reason two . . . glorification of violence
Personally, I purchase a packet of White Poppies every year from the Peace Pledge Union.
From their website:
“War is a crime against humanity. I renounce war, and am therefore determined not to support any kind of war. I am also determined to work for the removal of all causes of war.’ So why, in the 21st century, with all our skills, knowledge and resources, are we still waging war?”
Unabashed promotion – click if you like!