Why Do You Wear a Poppy? | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Why Do You Wear a Poppy?

Comment Editor Alex Goodwin and Comment Writer Rahim Mohamed explore their reasons for proudly displaying a poppy on Remembrance Day

I am a Pacifist; But I Wear a Poppy with Pride.

I don’t like human suffering of any kind, and at the age of thirteen I was both overwhelmed with emotion and horrified to see the millions of graves across France and Belgium whilst on my Year 9 Battlefields trip. So, naturally, like many others, I am against war.

However, Remembrance Sunday rolled around once again this year, and once again debates about the traditional ‘Poppy Appeal’ loomed over the day.

Observing Remembrance Day, falling silent for two minutes and wearing a poppy does not mean you’re a supporter for all modern conflicts the British Army have partaken in

I was always brought up to wear a poppy. With a Grandfather that fought in the Army and a Grandmother that became a nurse to aid wounded soldiers, a poppy was a sign of my appreciation to them, and to many others.

Observing Remembrance Day, falling silent for two minutes and wearing a poppy does not mean you’re a supporter for all modern conflicts the British Army have partaken in. In fact, to me, it signifies the exact opposite.

On the fateful years of 1914 to 1919 millions of innocent men went to fight for our country so that my parents’ generation, my generation, and the generations that will come after me could live in peace.

The first poppy day in Britain was held in 1921, and the money raised by the Royal British Legion went to ex-servicemen and their families, many of whom lost all male counterparts.

over a million Muslims from across Bangladesh, Pakistan and India travelled to Europe to fight in our trenches

I agree the state should look after veterans; however, the modern military should not be able to hijack the symbolic commemoration that the poppy has come to represent. The men from across Britain and its Commonwealth and International allies had no choice but to fight in the First and then the Second World Wars.

Displaying the red flower in November every year should not come to symbolize the countless military interventions (whether right of wrong) in the second half of the 1900s. It should not be seen as a universal connotation and support of all subsequent wars, as the nature of conflict has changed significantly. Since the Second World War, Britain has not had to fight for absolute protection of national security, and therefore the poppy should not represent these conflicts.

Post- Brexit the poppy has also been claimed by extreme nationalists (or fascists, whichever term you prefer) such as the BNP. Of course, this fallacy is hypocritical to the highest degree, as well over a million Muslims from across Bangladesh, Pakistan and India travelled to Europe to fight in our trenches.

A poppy is a sign of respect for the fallen that had no choice in losing their lives, not for Neo- imperialism or extreme nationalism

And this point does not stop here, as hundreds of thousands of soldiers came from across Africa, the Caribbean and the South Pacific. The poppy is also a remembrance of these individuals. I think most can agree British Colonialism was rather undeserving of these countries to aid in our fight for freedom. Yet they did, and we owe them our gratitude.

Our freedom is taken for granted in the modern day. We have the choice whether or not to learn German in school and we are lucky enough to maintain a democratic government. The poppy is one simple way to remind ourselves of the individuals that allowed us to enjoy this freedom.

A poppy is a sign of respect for the fallen that had no choice in losing their lives, not for Neo- imperialism or extreme nationalism. I choose to display this gratitude by placing a poppy upon shirt, and you should too.

Lest we forget.

Article By Alex Goodwin

 

I advocate peace and diplomacy above all other means of resolving conflict in the international arena, but (with the utmost reluctance) accept that military conflict will at times be inevitable, largely due to the failings of those who we entrust with power.

A common precursor to war in any epoch is political failure; the benefit of hindsight points to moments when bad decisions have resulted in the upscaling of tensions between nations to the point of violence.  Subsequent military conflict results in sacrifice, injury and loss of life; soldiers and their families will suffer irreversible physical, emotional and mental damage.

The fight for freedom is timeless and is not one that was settled in the first half of the 1900s

This sequence of events is not the fault of the individual soldiers in our armies and it is important that the scale of loss in the World Wars, though unfathomable in the context of contemporary conflict, does not mask the fact that the sacrifice made by British army personnel today is no less great.

The fight for freedom is timeless and is not one that was settled in the first half of the 1900s.  Our British soldiers of today may not be forced to fight as those in the World Wars were, but their choice to be available in the event that they are called upon is still an act of defending our freedom.

We are lucky enough to live at a time in which Britain’s global struggles are more often than not resolved without military conflict.  Nevertheless, the preservation of this status quo not only requires constant diplomatic work on the international stage, but also the presence of a military to add credence to this.

soldiers of today that choose to be in a position to fight have made a decision that means that the rest of us are not faced with compulsory military service and have the freedom to pursue our goals

To contextualise this point, consider how much further along North Korea would be with their nuclear weapons project if they were not being opposed by America – a country that in 2016 spent more on its military than the next nine biggest spenders added together.

On a more personal level, soldiers of today that choose to be in a position to fight have made a decision that means that the rest of us are not faced with compulsory military service and have the freedom to pursue our goals.

The idealist’s view is one where we live in a world where there is no need for a military – this is my preference.  However, the more realistic view revolves around the idea that we have a military in place so we don’t have to use it.

It is their sacrifice in this instance that I believe that those who wear the poppy should also recognise

Unfortunately, as long as this tool for ‘conflict resolution’ is available, it will be periodically (rightly or wrongly) exercised by those who hold power.  When this happens, regard will not be given to whether our soldiers believe the conflict that they are entering into is right or wrong – they won’t get a say in the matter.  Instead, they will be mobilised and sent into the field where some of them will die.

It is their sacrifice in this instance that I believe that those who wear the poppy should also recognise.  Their loved ones will hurt just as those did in the World Wars.

I will continue to wear the poppy to remember our soldiers who lost their lives in the World Wars, alongside those perishing in the conflicts of today.

Lest we forget.

Article By Rahim Mohamed



Published

22nd November 2017 at 9:00 am



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