White Poppies

This year I did not wear a red poppy, and I declined an invitation to attend a Remembrance Day ceremony. My husband went, and said that it was dignified and meaningful, and that veterans of engagements since WWII were also acknowledged by members of the audience putting poppies on the wreath on their behalf.

I do not want to wear a red poppy ever again, or attend another Remembrance Day ceremony. I do not want to remember… nor do I want to forget! I want to move forward.

I know that it sounds far-fetched to yearn for a world that celebrates peace instead of remembering war. But now, with no intended disrespect to the heavily patriotic and Christian traditions of these commemorations, I reject them. If they help YOU feel better about the carnage of the last century, I am happy for you. For me they invoke a bitter rage at the stupidity of war, and the stupidity of the human race that has not been able to see this.

There is a new idea, a new campaign afloat for people who share this view to state it publicly, not ignoring the day, but finding an alternative and by wearing a WHITE poppy. The following quotation is from Richard Jackson’s blog last year:

I would wear a red poppy if it was a symbol of remembrance for all the victims of war, and not just the ones who did the killing. By excluding the non-military victims of war from remembrance, the red poppy upholds a moral hierarchy of worthy and unworthy victims: the heroic soldier who is worthy of respect and official commemoration, and the unworthy, unnamed civilians killed or maimed by the heroic soldier who remains unacknowledged and unremembered. This validation of those who wage war and the moral hierarchy of victims is a central part of the cultural architecture which upholds the continuing institution of war in our society. It is a central part of what makes war possible. When the red poppy comes to be associated with an honest public acknowledgement of all the people killed by our soldiers, enemy soldiers and civilians alike; when it symbolizes our sorrow and regret for all the victims of war, not just a chosen few; then I would consider wearing a red poppy.

Sabina Becker wrote in her blog about Peace or poppies? The ethical dilemma that shouldn’t be

And here’s an irony: The same Royal Canadian Legion who saw merit in my ambivalent essay, and who also claim with a straight face that the poppy represents those who died for our freedom…have tried to ban the free-speech gesture that is the white poppy!

Remind me of what all that warring and dying was for, again?

I would love to wear a white poppy. I think it’s the perfect gesture: Honor the dead, by speaking for life and peace. But I live in a fairly conservative town, where the white poppy campaign has yet to reach. I can’t see our Royal Canadian Legion branch selling them anytime soon; their official position is apparently still stuck somewhere around the same level as that sixth-grade jingle.

And I’m not the kind of person who stands on street corners selling things, braving ignorant people’s abuses alone.

So here I am again, stuck on the horns of the same old dilemma: Peace or poppies?

How about peace AND poppies?


And Jonathan Brun also wrote about the issue here: Why a white poppy should replace the red poppy on your lapel this year

Violence across the world has been steadily declining and while the tasks ahead remain daunting, a white poppy will help us remember that we must honour and remember peace, not death. Mahatma Gandhi prophetically said, “Non-violence is a plant of slow growth. It grows imperceptibly but surely”. We must fertilize the soil upon which it grows and that is why I will be wearing a white poppy this year, I hope you join me.

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