Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Why I won't be wearing a poppy again this year

One of the highlights of elementary school was getting the free poppy that was passed out every year. Back then they were made of felt and were a whole lot better than the plastic ones passed out today.

Poppies "celebrate" the deaths of Canadian soldiers in the First World War as celebrated by the poem "In Flander's Fields" by Dr. John McCrae a physician who died shortly after writing this poem. I can still recite most of this poem from memory (but I can't remember where I left my keys). Every year in November poppies are given out for a donation by Royal Canadian Legionaires and Army/Navy/Air Cadets. Not wearing them is, certainly for someone in the public eye such as a politician or other figure, a major faux pas.

I haven't however worn one since university. Not because I forgot to get one, not because I always stab myself with the pin, not because of the cheap plastic or that I always seem to leave them on the coat I am not wearing.

I first got a little disgusted at an event that happened years ago. At the ceremony in Ottawa, a group of women wanted to lay a wreath in memory of women who were raped during war-time. A little strident but we must also remember the number of civilians who suffered during the war as well. These women were physically restrained by a group of veterans from laying the wreath.

Remembrance Day was started as a day to remember how awful war really is in the hope that we would not have another one. Some people say that it was the horror of the first world war that lead politicians in Britain and France to appease Hitler in the years running up to WW2. Those of us who study history would say that WW2 was probably inevitable and whether or not Hitler was appeased only affected how early or late the war would have started. In fact probably not just a few British, French, Canadian and American politicians and businessmen actually liked what Hitler was doing until what he was doing threatened them.

When I was young most of our fathers had actually served in the second world war. My father did although he fixed radios at various airfield in Canada. Quite a few WWI veterans were still alive. These veterans marched silently on Remembrance Day in memory of their colleagues who died and in the hope that more would not have to die. Unfortunately as we get farther and farther away from wars as devastating as the First and Second World Wars, Remembrance Day has moved from a solemn remembrance of the horror of war to a celebration of war.

Over 100 Canadians have died in the war in Afghanistan propping up a government that oppresses women, Christians and ethnic minorities. Any criticism of this war is answered by the usual reply of, " Do you want those brave soldiers to have died for nothing". It is hard to answer this except to reply that yes indeed they have died for nothing and that maybe we should get out before more die for nothing.

I had a lot of hope for the 21st century. I really felt that we would find a way of solving problems in a way that didn't involve killing people.

I think I'll be forgetting to get a poppy next year.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


I'm currently an intern, and have spoken to a lot of patients who are also WWII veterans. All of them say that war was the worst thing they've ever experienced and that it shouldn't happen again to anyone.

The sad thing is that the veterans are aging and dying. There'll be nobody left who truly understands the horrors of war. However, there are plenty of people who know the profitability of war, and even more who find the idea of conflict naively heroic and romantic.

I don't wear poppies either. If the country truly did care about its veterans, they'd be living without worry. Instead, they're languishing away on filthy medical wards while useful funding is going towards another unjust war in a country that is no threat to our independence.

People make me sick.