A nation divided – to wear a poppy, or not?

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With the ceramic poppies at the Tower of London aside, it seems a growing abundance of ‘poppy fascism’ has wickedly stolen the limelight from Remembrance Day more so this year than any other.

Articles, columns and opinion pieces covering both sides of the debate have indeed been filling the pages of papers for weeks, with such headlines as: “Why I wear a poppy”; “Why I won’t wear a poppy”; “Should you wear a poppy?”; “Shouldn’t you wear a poppy?”; “Man dies of heart attack brought on by stress of deciding whether or not he should wear his poppy.” (Fine, I may have made the last one up).

Today is, of course, a day during which millions of people pay homage to the fallen soldiers of wars both past and present in memorial services up and down the country. While often bitter-sweet, it is a beautifully British celebration which offers us an opportunity to express our thanks and gratitude for the great heroes of our nation.

I, like thousands of others, have bought and worn a poppy for as long as I can remember, and have attended the parade in my local town centre each year since I was a little girl. For many, the commemoration is an almost perfect way to show appreciation for the indescribable sacrifices made for our freedom throughout modern history.

Yet, it seems in recent years that Remembrance Day has rapidly become tainted by the haughtiness of a certain few taking it upon themselves to name, shame and humiliate others who refuse to join in with the anniversary of the Armistice by not wearing a poppy.

These poppy-wearing enforcers have indeed been cruel in their chastening of any public figure who dares step out of their own house without wearing the famous red flower upon their breast. ITV News presenter Charlene White has faced the brunt of the backlash both this year and last, the most recent of cases seeing Wigan footballer James McClean booed by spectators every time he touched the ball on Friday evening’s game against Bolton, simply because he chose not to wear a poppy during the match.

I do find it quite baffling that these people, who appear to go out of their way to point fingers at those not ‘joining in’, have even the time or the energy to bother sending in complaints against these innocent people, who have just as right to not wear a poppy as those who choose to wear one. Do they not have better things to be doing? Like polishing and ironing their own poppies? (Obviously, they are far more wonderful and moral than the rest of us.)

The other side of this debate has come in the form of articles like Lindsey German’s, which argues that the best way to protect and respect soldiers is to not send them away to fight in the first place. Others have made great proclamations of refusing to comply with a concept which glorifies war, unfairly accusing politicians and celebrities of only wearing a poppy to avoid the backlash of not doing so. It is little more than an accessory for the politically correct, they claim, even suggesting the existence of a poppy hierarchy in which “white is better than red”.

Such division is ludicrous when the emblem is, in part, supposed to represent the end of poisonous, bitter feud between two sides. To be a nation divided on a day such as this is surely nothing but an insult to those who fought for peace and unity, and enough is quite frankly enough. We are done with the opinion pieces, newspaper columns, articles and television debates. Either wear a poppy, or don’t – you have a right to live freely as you please.

On Remembrance Day, isn’t that supposed to be the point?

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