It’s that time of year again – the big poppy debate. Should you or shouldn’t you? Is it a show of remembrance or a glorification of war? A charitable initiative or an abdication of government responsibility for veterans? Ensue mass twitter abuse at TV presenters who don’t wear a poppy.
This year, like all years, I will be wearing a poppy. In fact, I’m looking forward to receiving my ceramic one from the Tower of London installation. But if you are one of those who have chosen not to wear a poppy, I support you 100% in your decision.
I wear a poppy because I have a personal interest in the military, because I support the work the Royal British Legion does and, for me, it reminds me of the sacrifice others have made on my behalf. But these are my personal reasons and if you don’t share them I respect that.
What I do not respect is pressuring others into thinking as I do; in making people feel ostracised or guilty because they do not feel as I do. In applying mass peer pressure to make people conform to an idea of patriotism that somebody somewhere has apparently defined. I do not like a symbol of hope being used as an excuse to spread vitriol and division. I do not like any attempt to curtail the freedom of choice; the freedom of expression of those who choose to not to wear a poppy – everything which, to me, the poppy stands against. To paraphrase Voltaire, I may not agree with your decision not to wear a poppy, but I defend with a vehemence your right not to.
Forcing TV presenters and others to wear a poppy is also, to me, rather insulting. Someone who does not actually care about the cause but has to wear a poppy out of fear of abuse if they don’t, devalues the symbolism. It’s disingenuous. It’s tokenism. It doesn’t further the cause of remembrance if people don’t understand what they are supposed to be remembering. This shouldn’t have to be an opt-out situation; people shouldn’t have to justify why they are not wearing one. The poppy appeal shouldn’t be tainted with such negativity.
Men and women have died so that we could have the freedom to choose how we live our lives. Lets not sully their memory by refusing to respect the choices people make when it comes to remembering those who have fallen.