Saturday, 10 November 2012

Poppy Day

For the last couple of years, around the time of Remembrance Day, I write a post to mark the occasion. Last year was a story about stories. The year before that, I linked to a story, a single, solitary moment in the life of a soldier. One of my favourite posts to date, even if not the most popular.

This year, I apologise, but I want to raise a point that bothers me. 

Despite being thousands of miles now from the UK, we can still watch British television programmes. For the past few weeks, TV hosts, guests, audiences, even bit-part players in so-called reality or talent shows, have appeared with a poppy attached to their clothing. Anyone likely to appear in-shot is also given one to wear. I know for a fact that most of them do not buy the poppies, but are just presented with them in order to ensure that they appear suitably attired.

To my mind, this not only belittles the poppy, but also defeats at least half of its purpose.

The poppy is worn as a reminder. A reminder of those who fell in battle, those who never grew old, those who never returned home to their loved ones. But it is also a fundraiser. Selling poppies is by far the largest revenue generator for the Royal British Legion, a charity that supports those still serving, the ones who came home injured, as well as the families of those who never came home at all. 

Seeing sparkly, show-biz poppies doesn't achieve the desired effect, in fact, it misses the point completely. The poppy isn't a piece of jewelry, it isn't a fashion accessory, it isn't a part of a costume. The poppy is a mark of respect, a symbol of hope as well as remembrance. 

Tomorrow, as many millions around the world pause to reflect and remember at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, I will join them. I will wear a poppy. Not because I've been told to do it, or because it looks good on what I'm wearing, but as a simple symbol of respect to those who have served as well as those who continue to do so. 


Charlie_Warlie said...

This post is so amazingly true, and you have huge respect from me for putting it down in words. I am 100% with you that the reason and meaning behind the poppy seems to have faded out!! Although "celebs" wear these poppies, there doesn't actually seem to be much coverage on the reasoning behind wearing them, nothing educational for the new generations, and yet there are still proud men.and woman out there fighting wit every bit of courage that they have!! I think its a huge disrespect for them!! *thumbs up* to you though for getting a message out there!! Charlie

Freddie said...

Ummm... yeah. Sort of. I do think that people wear poppies as a sort of uniform, just so that they don't get picked up as the only one who's not not wearing a poppy (WHY AREN'T YOU WEARING ONE, HMMM???? WHY??? DON'T YOU CARE???), but at least they do buy them. And the sparkly poppies that some celebs wear come from the British Legion online shop - they are 'legitimate', even if their reason for wearing it isn't.
Personally? I wear a poppy from the moment they go on sale, not because I want people to know I care - anyone who knows me knows that well enough, but as a reminder. It's a two week period during which, when I catch a glimpse of myself in a shop window or a mirror, I stop and think. And remember.

Jo P said...

Have a poppy pin now and people keep saying but then you won't donate every year for a new poppy. Well you know you can put the money in the pot without taking a paper poppy! That's my intention - the giving is more important than the wearing really.

GrumpyRN said...

Our family do not wear poppies, why? Because my Grandfather who fought in the First World War and lost a leg, refused to have anything to do with something named after Earl Haig who he saw as a butcher. If anyone came into his house wearing a poppy he would rip it from their lapel and tear it up. This tradition passed to my father and then to us.
We remember, we care, we give but we will not wear a poppy.

JR said...

IM, I agree poppies should neither be uniform nor fashion accessories. Wearing one should be a personal not enforced choice and as a mark of remembrance rather than an outward statement.

I agree with Freddie that when I am wearing one, I remember every time it catches my eye.

Where I take issue with you is your condemnation of everything with a poppy motif that is sold by the British Legion.

Last year I had the good fortune of working for the Legion over the Poppy Appeal and can anecdotally say that the alternative products were a major source of revenue - which as you say is half of the reason behind the appeal.

I'm sure part of this was due to the novelty value of different products and a desire for exclusivity but equally there could be many pragmatic reasons why someone may choose to wear an enamelled lapel pin or a wrist band for example. I know it sounds a little naive but in the spirit of being charitable, why not give them the benefit of the doubt.