This post and those which follow are being rehomed, so for anyone who’s previously read my writing, I apologise for the repetition.
This is another modification on a piece penned around a year ago, which remains distressingly relevant. Originally published on Off Your Shelf.
One would think the entire concept of poppy fascism would be so mindshatteringly ironic that it wouldn’t be a thing at all. Unfortunately, it is.
Like many historians in embryo, I’m normally very content and blissfully in love with my chosen vocation; it’s the one way we survive the mountains of books, paper, blood, ink and tears. Two occasions are an exception to this: firstly, any time England plays Germany in any sporting event of significance. (‘Yeah, but who won the war’ – I think you’ll find it was the Russians, who tend to keep quiet about it.) Secondly, Remembrance Day.
It should be obvious that when I say I don’t like Remembrance Day, I am not saying that we shouldn’t remember everyone who’s either needlessly lost their lives in pointless wars or bravely sacrificed themselves to defend their country in just wars. I’ve chosen to devote my career to researching why these things happen and promoting knowledge in order to prevent them in the future; that should speak for itself. According to some people, it doesn’t. The fact I – and certain others – don’t wear a piece of paper on our clothes for a week makes us literally worse than Hitler. Only Hitler would probably wear a poppy because he was big on public opinion, oddly enough.
|This balances out the bad karma from that whole illegal war business.
(Image from BBC)
I should add that I donate to the Royal British Legion and Help for Heroes whenever I see them collecting because they do valuable work. I don’t wear this thing because it invariably falls off two minutes later and I’m confident enough that I’m a Good Person not to wear a sign saying so.
I was inspired to write this piece by this article. The TL;DR of this is that an ITV news presenter who chose not to wear a poppy on screen in order to be non-political and impartial (as indeed the news should be) has been targeted with racist and sexist insults on Twitter, including the predictable ‘go back where you came from’. I wrote this piece last year, and nothing has changed.
The armies that fought for freedom and against oppression also fought for one’s right not to wear that poppy if they don’t want to. And they definitely fought for one’s right to make that choice without being persecuted for it. I thought about calling everyone who doesn’t change their Facebook picture to a candle on Holocaust Memorial Day an ‘anti-Semitic genocide-enabling douchecannon’, but didn’t because I’m a rational human being.
|The part of ‘Lest we forget’ that we forget.
(Image from BBC)
This leads onto a further point; Remembrance Day is exactly that. A day. A day dictated by the government as a pseudo-national holiday without a day off which is apparently legitimised by falling on the day the 1918 Armistice was declared. The same government spouts the same ‘lest we forget’ soundbites while receiving memos about the number of troops dying in another pointless conflict which has no real motive nor indeed foreseeable outcome.
Not dissimilar to the First World War, in that respect.
The centennial of the First World War has arrived, which politically charges the issue even further. The four-year commemoration plans have the potential to be an excellent opportunity for rethinking and reeducating the population about this particular war. It wasn’t a brave stand in the face of oppression as its successor was, it was the violent, pointless and inevitable climax of what was little more than a centuries-old colonial pissing contest because Germany wanted a slice of the African pie and France and Britain said no.
Unfortunately, acknowledging this would mean we face up to our colonial warmongering past, and in the interests of patriotism we won’t do that. Going down the Great British route would mean we annoy the Germans, and we can’t afford to do that either. So we’ll be watching a lot of films with a pacifist angle without anything resembling analysis or consideration of why the hell it happened and how do we stop doing it again.
Just as we do every single year because we think wearing a poppy means we know things.
|All’s Quiet on the Critical Front.
(Image from The Royal British Legion)
Don’t espouse the opposite values that Remembrance Day promotes because someone isn’t commemorating it in the same way you are. If they choose to wear a white poppy, this goes double. People died for their right to tell the world to take a running jump if they wanted to.