Posted on November 6, 2013
The Remembrance Day Poppy is an important symbol but we should be free to choose to wear one or not without fear of reprisal from the moral majority.
Like most people, I buy a poppy every year as a mark of respect, not just for the men and women of this country who have given their lives in military service but also for the fallen of all nationalities and creeds, friends, foe, soldiers or civilians. They were all sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, brothers or sisters who left behind heartbroken families. I wear one to remember them, whether in victory or in vain, but above all to reinforce the sadness and pointlessness of war. For me, the red poppy – an icon shaped by war – has much more value as a symbol of peace. We should use it to remind ourselves that conflict must only be the last resort, when all else has failed.
However, my respect does not extend to the vociferous Poppy Mafia who come out in force earlier each year to tut at anyone who dares not wear one. And then there’s the strange insistence of the BBC that all of their broadcasters and guests must wear one from mid to late October onwards. Sorry, not for me.
There are plenty of legitimate reasons for not wearing a poppy – you may have bought one but forgotten to wear it, you might be a conscientious objector, you might abhor everything that it stands for or perhaps you simply just don’t think it is important. You might, like me, momentarily be wearing an alternative pin to mark something else, like the recent death of my young son.
Personally, I do care, and choose to wear mine regularly (not 24 hours a day) but only in the 7 days preceding Remembrance Sunday and remove it immediately afterwards. However, even if I disagree with them, I respect the decision of anyone who chooses not to wear one at all because that’s what freedom is, the right to choose, which is what many of these brave men and women died for in the first place.
If you’re interested, here’s what Debrett’s Guide to etiquette says on the subject:
(The image for this post is by Lawrence Rayner and used with permission through a Creative Commons attribution licence)