Remembrance Sunday yesterday was a time to reflect for veterans on lost comrades in arms, for family and friends to recall loved ones to mind and for all to honour the service past and present of armed forces throughout the Commonwealth. Gradually humanists are being allowed to take part in services, though this is still far from the norm.
Remembering usually involves wearing a red poppy. Plastic and paper, it is probably the most worn secular symbol in Britain which raises money for the Royal British Legion whose target is just under £40 million to continue their work throughout the year. For a brief moment in October through into November funds are raised through donations. On 11 November at 11am for what was Armistice Day marking the end of The War To End All Wars, World War One, a further moments of silence is held. When it failed to live up to that hope with the Second World War it became Remembrance Day.
It is entirely up to you whether you wear or do not wear a poppy. You can chose to be opposed, or to wear with fervour for the memory of the fallen. What no one gets to do is tell me how I should feel wearing a poppy. I wear it publicly for my own reasons regarding the carnage and horror of war and remembering my Grandfather and what he saw at Belsen, the nightmares he had in his final days when he opened up for the first time as he showed the town’s folk around the concentration camp so they could see what had happened. Also for friends that have served in ongoing conflicts, and how the experience has affected them.
A debate at University, during the poppy appeal, the discussion was on Northern Ireland. A member of the Lords spoke for the people to be given a chance to vote for Union or to join the Republic. A student suggested he should not wear a poppy as he was disgracing the memory of British service men and women who died for the Union.
Very slowly his Lordship responded mentioning his father, who died in service during World War Two. He never got to know him. I cannot do justice to what he said, except that suddenly he changed tempo from regret and sorrow, to finish firmly with “I don’t give a damn what you think!”
I could tell you about Robert Fisk “Poppycock – or why remembrance rituals make me see red” or how “Stop the War” say wearing red poppies and remembrance gives political cover for “illegal” unjust wars and neglects civilians killed during war.
They are for me easy to ignore. Years later, the roar of approval in the debating chamber I heard that followed his Lordship’s response drowns out for me the jingoists, the cynics and the malcontents out there now.
Wear it with pride or do not wear it at all.
I could not give a damn if you do not.
Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog