Poppies: Salute or Slap?

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With Remembrance Day quickly approaching, poppies are starting to appear pinned to coats, decorating wreaths outside residencies and on crosses near memorials. But why is there so much controversy linked to this bright herbaceous flora?

After the First World War, the poppy bloomed across blood-soaked battlefields, leading to its adoption in 1921 as a memorial to soldiers and those who sacrificed their lives for their respective countries. It is a symbol widely recognised in various countries including the US, Canada and of course, the UK. The profits made from poppy merchandise is handled by the Royal British Legion and is donated to both current and former military service people and their families who are in need.

Credit: Sophie Percy

There remain people today that ostracise the poppy for personal reasons. These include individuals who claim that the poppy glorifies war. Many pacifists, for example, abstain from wearing the poppy as they are against any, and all, violence. Some pacifists instead wear a white poppy – representing that while they wish to pay respect to those who sadly lost their lives during wars, they also advocate the need for peace. It should be noted that funds raised from white poppies do not go to the Armed Forces, but instead towards the Peace Pledge Union – an organisation promoting peace. Groups such as Northern Irish Republicans see the poppy as a part of the British establishment. Others wish to commemorate thousands of defenceless animals who were unknowingly forced into war zones and tragically lost their lives, these people wear purple poppies or purple paw print emblems.

A few objectors feel that it is no longer relevant today but others respond that the monumental 2018 Tower of London Poppy display, which drew thousands of admirers proves that the poppy is just as relevant today as it was almost 100 years ago. The poppy not only shows respect for World War One soldiers but also those who have fought in more recent and current wars – such as the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan. The British Legion website even states: ‘We acknowledge innocent civilians who have lost their lives in conflict and acts of terrorism‘ – if anything, terrorism is one of the most ongoing prominent issues of today.

Credit: Sophie Percy

Other individuals refuse to support the poppy because they feel ‘bullied’ into it. These people believe a stigma exists and there is public disdain against those who do not wear a poppy. Therefore, in protest, they do not wear one themselves, even if their beliefs coincide with the symbol’s significance. This raises the question: Is this a just reason not to wear the poppy or is it simply pettiness?

Albeit hard to believe, there is a small percentage of the population that do not wear a poppy because they do not want to pay the minuscule cost. This is despite the fact that there is no set donation fee for the traditional paper poppy, you just pay as much or as little as you wish. However, I would recommend donating at least £1 for it, which is a more than reasonable cost which certainly the majority of individuals can afford, particularly as it goes toward such a worthy cause.

Credit: Sophie Percy

Should you wear a poppy? That is completely up to personal preference. However, if you support and admire those currently fighting for our country and those who fought for our freedom and paid the ultimate sacrifice, the poppy is the perfect way to show your gratitude and give back to our armed forces. There are many alternative ways to signify your support, from pins to hair bands, all the way to car accessories. If you hold alternative views about the poppy dignifying war or unjustly sacrificing animals why not wear the white or purple poppy? Whatever your choice, I urge you to find your own way to pay respect to our brave service people/animals and the victims of conflict on the 11th of November, Armistice Day.

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