Today at 11am I shall like thousands of others fall silent in remembrance of those who gave their lives during the two World Wars, I wear my poppy with pride but this year there have been many issues which have caused me to think about what this means to others.
Firstly the threats made to young poppy sellers in various locations that physical violence would be done to them for selling this symbol of respect for fallen soldiers, my initial response it to be outraged by this and of course the threat of violence by anyone is totally reprehensible but does it also damned questions be asked?
When One Direction wore poppies during their X-factor performances at the weekend their followers flooded Twitter completely unaware of what the ‘red flowers’ symbolised. It leaves the question are these our own children who are ignorant of what the Poppy stands for or are the people asking the question simply from other countries and unaware of our custom? But another news story then grabbed my attention, that of footballer James McClean who refused to wear a poppy and has received abuse despite an open letter explaining his reasons. His reason for his refusal is simple that while he fully supports the original purpose of the poppy to show respect and support for those who fought and fell in the two world wars that he cannot support it’s attachment now to all who have fallen in conflict.
While for the majority of us that new distinction does not really matter for many others it does, James McClean grew up in Northern Ireland through the worst of the troubles for him Bloody Sunday was more than a U2 song, many recent conflicts have been controversial as far as many people are concerned but again I reiterate none of that justifies threats. What it does justify is the right of people not to wear a poppy, infact my Great Grandad died in a field in a foreign country to ensure you have the freedom to choose whether you wear a poppy or not.
Some people are taking a different tack and promoting White poppies to remember the victims of war and those non combatants who died and again I have no problem with this but once again it has to be stated that tragically lives had to be lost to ensure they have the freedom to reflect on the loss of innocent lives.
I am not sure if there needs to be different colour poppies to distinguish whether you respect the fallen or the innocent or just the fallen in certain wars, surely the most important lesson we should have learnt from all those who have lost their lives in conflict regardless of when, where or how is to respect the living, to agree to disagree without resorting to threats of violence.
Personally my only regret this year is that I cannot make it to the Tower of London to see the ceramic poppy field they have created to mark the centenary of the First World War sadly it will be taken down in a few days time, I think it should stand in remembrance and honour until the centenary of the end of the war but hey who asked for my opinion lol.
I choose to wear my poppy with pride I refuse to allow it to be hijacked by political groups and to allow them to change what it stands for to me, and at the end of the day we can only be responsible for ourselves, we cannot know another’s heart and should never judge another unless the are directly doing us harm. If you choose not to wear one I do not judge you for I do not know your story but I expect you not to judge me for my choice to do so, and I ask also that you remember how we retained to freedom to have our differing opinions. But if you want to know my story this is why I wear my poppy…