Tuesday 20 November 2012

Remembrance Day blues

Watching the events over the last week or so unfold have reminded me why I hate what has become of Remembrance Day: The virtually one sided slaughter in Gaza (130 Palestinians and 3 Israelis dead): The failure of UN peacekeepers to prevent horror in the Democratic Republic of Congo: In Durham Cathedral, another funeral of a British soldier dying needlessly in Afghanistan.

War is wrong, war is never a solution. The red poppy, which I cherished as a child, taught me to remember the dead of 2 world wars, in the hope that the horror would never happen again. Since the Iraq war, increasingly, it has taken on a more sinister role, and as become somehow connected to patriotism and a glorification of current conflicts.

In Sunderland, which holds the biggest remembrance day parade outside of London, my decision to wear a white poppy was met with shouts on the streets, even though I wore it with a red poppy intertwined.  The Military flyby at 11am was met by gasps of joy from the crowds, but I couldn't help but feel the terror of those being bombed by such jets around the world.

The white poppy has been around since 1933. It is a symbol that says that we need to strive for peace, not glorify war. In the age of relentless bombing of civilians in Gaza, and of butchering in 22 wars around the world - it is imperative that we all work for peace and put behind us the symbols of war. We need to reclaim the red poppy as a true act of remembrance - never again should we endorse the evils of war. We also need to assert the white poppy, so that we all oppose conflicts, and oppose all those who profit from such conflicts.

White and Red worn together should not be a problem for Sunderland. After all, the city's footballers model on the fields of honour every week!


  1. As a serving (if only part time) soldier, I would just like to reassure you that I attend our remembrance parade out of nothing more than a wish to recognise the sacrifice of those who gave their lives in the two World Wars, and at the same time to offer a prayer for the safe return of all those serving abroad, regardless of what we may think of the reasons for their being there.

    And as for your white poppy; keep wearing it (well, both of them) with pride.

  2. Hey Rob, great that you replied and, like many soldiers, have got passed the guff and ick of civil remembrance ceremonies. But the word "sacrifice" is an interesting and often used one in this context. What does it mean here? It has deep religious signficance, especially as most Remembrance Day events happen in the context of Churches...