I know there’s been a lot of toing and froing over poppy wearing recently, so I just wanted to add my tuppenceworth and say why I, as a committed pacifist, make darned sure I’m wearing a (red) poppy every year.
Put simply, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” (George Santayana).
I’ve heard many people saying they will not wear a poppy because it ‘glorifies war’, but, correct me if I’m wrong, aren’t the words most commonly associated with Rememberance Day (clue’s in the name) “Lest we forget”? Lest we forget the horror, the pain, the bloodshed and the ultimate futility of sending our youth into battle, that’s why I wear a poppy.
I see no use, or gain in war. I know that the servicemen and women who come home in pieces, or beflagged coffins, were not the ones who decided to go to war. It’s always the politicians, in their snug, oak-paneled war-rooms who decide that kind of thing. The last thing on my mind when I pin on my poppy is “gosh darn I’m so proud we have people out there giving their lives so we can be safe”. I’m thinking, “I will not forget the waste and the destruction that war has wreaked, and still wreaks, on everyone it touches”.
My better half tells me of his grandfather who fought in the trenches in WWI, the trauma of his experiences leaving him prone to depression and rages for the rest of his life. That’s a whole family blighted, and he was one of the ‘lucky survivors’. My own parents were around in WWII – one in occupied Denmark, where as a young teen helping the resistance he was shot at by German soldiers, one in the London blitz, where also as a young teen she helped her own mum, a Red Cross nurse, pull dying children out of bombed buildings. Not experiences I’d wish on any 12yr old now.
My daughter came back from church last November with this prayer:
“Lord, I have no memory of war
I remember what it’s like to feel scared;
I remember what it’s like to feel sad;
I remember what it’s like to lose something precious to me.
Help me to use my own memories in understanding what this act of remembrance is all about, so that I can join my prayers with those who remember”
I’ve been to Verdun, and seen the graveyards – rows of crosses stretching as far as the eye can see, and a huge mausoleum packed full of unidentified skulls – and I’ve been to the Menin Gate, inscribed with the names of 54,896 Commonwealth soldiers who died without graves. Sons, husbands, fathers. To glorify war, and make it something triumphant, and brave, in the face of all the evidence; that’s not remembering, that’s forgetting.
I won’t forget, not ever.