Originally posted as an answer to:
How do you feel about people wearing a White Poppy for Rememberance Day?
At the end of the day, whether you wear white or red, they are both charitable symbols of rememberance. To say one of more valid or respectful than the other is ludicrous. It’s a personal choice as to which each person decides to wear, if any at all. Even though both find their roots in the inter-war years of 20th century, the Red Poppy of the Royal British Legion is presently the more dominant and widespread of the two
To wear a symbol outwardly as you go about your daily life seems quite a big thing to me. I don’t wear any other throughout the rest of the year so when I do I want know that I am wearing it for the right reasons.
I can’t help feeling the Red Poppy of the RBL has been somewhat hijacked by politicians and the media in recent years. From late October you will not see a single person on tv or in public life without a poppy (except Jon Snow- the newsreader perhaps) Great you may say- but if everyone is forced to wear them is that really conveying the right sentiment.
Then there are the politicians. I do think the Red Poppy campaign is far too militaristic. Of course the Royal British Legion is a military organisation, in their own words they are ” standing shoulder to shoulder with those that serve”. Which is great if that’s the cause you want to support. I wouldn’t find myself supporting military charities the rest of the year and don’t feel the need to now.
I feel quite uneasy about the rise of the ‘heroic soldiers’ theme in charities, where the armed forces are raised above all other professions because of their bravery. There are many other brave professions such as Nurses, Social Workers or the Police, for example that don’t get this special treatment, yet I would argue carry out more heroic duties.
While I wouldn’t necessarily say that the Red Poppy campaign glorifies war, I would say that it adds to this idea of the noble fighter and perpetuates the idea that a strong military is the only option.
Yet as an Archaeologist and one time History teacher I still want to remember those that have died and suffered through the tragedy of war. So for the last few years I have chosen to wear a White Poppy, made and distributed by the Peace Pledge Union.
Without its military connections, for me the White Poppy can represent a wider range of people that have suffered and died in conflicts; not just our Soldiers but Soldiers on all sides, civilians that died in all countries and also people that made the decision not to fight.
My Grandfather was a Conscientious Objector during World War II. He had to stand before a judge and defend his decision not to fight because of his Christian faith. By wearing a White Poppy, somehow I feel slightly closer to that decision.
Both the Red Poppy and the White Poppy are fitting ways to remember the huge sacrifices made by those that have gone before. However I feel the White Poppy further reminds us that we must always strive for peace.