Wear your poppy with pride?

Why the question mark, I wonder?

It seems, every year, a growing number of people object to the continuing dominance of this little red symbol of remembrance. The Peace Pledge Union advocates white (as it has since 1934) in remembrance of all victims of war, as well a commitment to peace and a challenge to attempts to 'glamorise' or 'celebrate' war.

Some people object to the red poppy on the grounds that - until very recently - the little black button in the centre of the paper petals still said 'Haig Fund', a conscience-salving exercise (they think) on the part of the eponymous Field-Marshal, who wouldn't have needed to establish a charity to support so many families of the fallen (or survivors with life-changing injuries) if he hadn't (so the argument goes) sent them with such cavalier disregard into the line of fire.

Others see the 'politically-correct' rash of red across TV networks (and the backlash against those like Moeen Ali who - unintentionally, in his case - fail to wear one) as another example of the politicisation of the humble poppy, and resent the expectation that it should be worn everywhere, by everyone.

As with so many things, this controversy is nothing not new. When the iconic war cemeteries were being created in France and Flanders (where the poppy grew naturally, abundantly) the flowers were dug up as weeds. Army chaplains especially hated them as 'heathen flowers' and it seems only their ubiquity among the killing fields of Flanders and their literary immortality in John McCrae's eponymous poem that has ensured their symbolic status, albeit accidentally.

But what is it that they do symbolise? Do they 'glamorise' or 'celebrate' war as the PPU fears? Is the colour red the problem, with its martial overtones and association of shed blood? Or is that time has transfigured what was an innocent, naturally occurring floral tribute to the fallen into something more nuanced, less straightforward, more susceptible to having objectionable ideological baggage superimposed on its otherwise humble form?

I shall be wearing mine tomorrow, as I always do. But I respect those who, for whatever reason, choose not to.

It's just a shame there isn't some innocent symbol of the sacrifice of so many that we can all agree on.


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