To be clear, I’m not making any sort of stand or political point. I’m not scouring the streets for an elusive white alternative or hoping someone will ask why I’m not wearing one, so I can share my lament on the glorification of war or suggest a 9-point plan of alternative remembrance…I just keep forgetting to get one.
I’m the guy who on Sunday morning will wake up and realise he hasn’t bought one yet. I’ll run across to my local petrol station hoping they’ve got some left. Sure, they’ll be the bottom-of-the-box ones which are always a bit squashed and there’ll be no pins left but I’ll still pay my £1…no, I’ll pay £1.50 just in case the person at the till thinks I don’t care enough.
Maybe I’ll get a pin badge, or a sparkly one like those on X-Factor. But whichever one I choose, I will wear a poppy this year. It’s not because I long to glorify war or because I want to justify our military budget or suggest no lives have ever been lost unnecessarily. I’ll wear one because I have the choice not to wear one. I can choose to stand on the street and observe a silence, I can choose to sit quietly at my desk. I can choose to carry on working and put some music on. Or I can shout, bang drums or blow whistles.
I’ll wear one because I have the freedom to write this and share it with the world…or at least those parts where strident measures or inaccessibility don’t stop people reading it.
I’ll wear one because some people are held back by opportunity, poverty or government measures, that can be protested about by camping next to landmarks or marching or banging drums and blowing whistles here in the UK. Genuine opposition to government is welcomed, encouraged and even voted for. If you don’t like the leader, you can tell him, make posters about him, draw cartoons of him and, in at least a few years time, get rid of him. Despite the cries of both the absurd extreme right and equally absurd extreme left – we are free.
I’ll wear one because whilst back in the first half of the 20th century my asthma might have got me out of it, countless others didn’t get a choice. Either by conviction or conscription they went, and today they still go. They go to places I’m not sure they should be, but I’m also not in the position where I have to weigh up the evidence and make those choices. They still go where they’re wanted and where they’re unwanted. When we don’t like it we can write or blog and protest, as we choose. The idea that by stopping for two minutes, wearing a red flowery symbol or laying a wreath somehow glorifies war, is an absurdity. We remember so we don’t forget our own free society.
I believe that peace has to be the ultimate goal, what we seek at all times and in all scenarios. I dream of a day when peace is the norm; of a world in which my kids (don’t get too excited mum) learn from our leaders and from each of us, that there are other ways besides conflict, but when that day comes, I’ll still wear a poppy and stand in silence for the people who helped us get there.
I read a while ago that someone felt one of the taglines for the poppy appeal ‘Lest we forget’ was a bad one. They suggested that without the appeal and the services and silences we wouldn’t forget. Maybe without it all we would be reminded to take a moment, to reflect on those who died and who still put themselves in danger daily, as the world tries to figure out how to live in peace with itself and each other. But right now I’m not sure it’s worth the risk because I still haven’t remembered to buy a poppy yet.