Posted by: rogermitchell | October 30, 2011

The abominable poppy

That dreadful time a year is coming round again when the wasted sacrifices of the lives of military combatants is celebrated by wearing a red poppy. As those who have heard me before on this will know, this is not something that I believe we should remain silent about. I am aware of the extreme sensitivity of the subject. Once again this week wonderful and often courageous and brave young men and women are dying and being mourned by their friends and relatives. It is not easy for them if some of us say loud and clear that this is intrinsically, morally and forever wrong. Which is why this year I will be wearing a white poppy and recommending others to do the same and to say, if asked, that I am remenbering and grieving for the lives laid down but praying and working for a peace that is the utter opposite of all military violence and war. [You can order yours from http://www.ppu.org.uk.]

The problem with the red poppy is that it marks and normalises the deep structural dependency of the Western world on the sacrifice of its sons and daughters. This is so central to the mindset of our supposedly representative democracy that it needs exposing and articulating. This, perhaps more than anything else, reveals how subchristian the West really is. The ceremonies at the British cenotaph and similar memorials local and national throughout the Western nations embody, reenact and access this uncomfortable fact annually, particularly around November 11th each year, in a way that seems to me to be more real, deadly and demonic than the blood sacrifices behind the darkest aspects of Halloween.

These issues are at last emerging into the light, for which reason I will be blogging on some of the central issues in the next few posts.

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Responses

  1. Oh thankyou! I have always had a deep and visceral dislike of the whole red poppy thing. Never wear one. Never want to. I brave the stares instead. The white poppy sounds interesting but I’ve never seen one. I guess the only way we can make ourselves feel better about killing off whole generations is to valorize the enterprise. I don’t know whether that is simply pathetic or disgusting when you get down to it. c.

  2. My main objection to the wearing of the poppy is the fact that it was done in the name of Earl Haig,Who was in reality a mass murderer of his own people never mind our so called enemy.
    We were recently asked by a local mother if would be willing to help in sending some supplies and gifts to the soldiers in Afghanistan .Her 17 year old son is currently serving there and I found it really difficult to work out where I stood on the issue.I oppose the war and what it does to all who are caught up in it but want to support her as she worries and prays for her sons safe return.These are real issues for everyday people living in some of the poorest areas of our nation,it is from these places that lots of the young men are recruited,young men who see no other way who have no hope and are lured by the prospect of work training and travel.I have seen these recruitment officer in action and confronted them with the brutality of what they are offering.
    A complex subject to say the least so I look forward to your posts

  3. A brave post, Roger, but certainly needed.

    The white poppy can also be included on your Twitter and Facebook avatar via Twibbon – or at least it was available last year. I used it and it caused a few questions to be asked.

    • Thanks for the advice Dyfed. Will you be wearing the white poppy this year too?

      • Yes indeed. It’s on both my avatars this morning.

  4. So Roger – the imperial church, St Pauls and the OWS protesters – who are anti-war among other things. All very, very interesting. c.

  5. My grandfather died in the great war and I used to wear a red poppy (even to Quaker meetings), though I was always uncomfortable about the militaristic associations. At the time of the Falklands war the guy in charge said what seemed to say ‘Wear a poppy and show your support for the war’. Whether he really intended to say that I doubt, but it seemed to slip out somehow. I never wore a poppy again. I wouldn’t wear a white poppy, because I don’t wish to offend sincere (though maybe brainwashed) red poppy wearers. However if the growing demands from right-wing papers for everyone to wear a red poppy increase then I may change my mind…


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