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The Poppy is a Symbol of Respect - But it Shouldn't be One of National Pride

Posted: 11/11/2011 10:16

The observation of our traditions arguably makes us more British than any citizen test ever could, but wearing the poppy is a custom that Britons feel the need to bicker about.

I believe that we should remember those who have died in the name of our country; not to glorify them as "heroes", but to acknowledge the cruel waste of lives brought about by war.

Similarly, I recognise that the Royal British Legion, for whom the Poppy Appeal raises funds, does excellent work in supporting those who have returned from war and families of the deceased.

Paradoxically, it seems that paying tribute to our troops often turns sour when people don't seem to understand how simple the meaning of the poppy is. It's a shame that such a sweet symbol with such poignant connotations can arouse anger in people from all walks of life.

This year, debate was centered around FIFA, who banned the England football team from wearing poppies in Saturday's upcoming match against Spain. FIFA rules against footballers wearing national, political, religious or commercial messages on shirts; however, they were shamed into retracting their ban when David Cameron and Prince William appealed to them as though it were a national emergency.

And today, Home Secretary Theresa May banned Muslims Against Crusades, an Islamist group who last year burned poppies during the Remembrance Day ceremony outside the Albert Hall.

These two disputes are completely different, but the reason behind their intensifying is the same: we have attached some kind of national pride to the symbol of the poppy. In the eyes of FIFA, it is clearly a national emblem that doesn't fit in with their quota; however, even Cameron claimed, "Wearing a poppy is an act of huge respect and national pride."

Similarly, Muslims Against Crusades associate the poppy with national British imperialism, which they dispute throughout their protests against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They burn the poppy as a representation of the Britain they hate. Meanwhile, Theresa May is on the other side defending this Britain.

It seems that the champions of national pride may have shot themselves in the foot.
Why has a mark of respect, a renunciation of death and a wish for peace, slipped into the realm of national identity, that which causes most of the dispute in the world? Accrediting the poppy with a national status has given ammunition to those who can't abide our country. And in doing so, it ignores the real meaning of the poppy.

For myself and many others, wearing the poppy is synonymous with mourning the dead from every war and from every country, because wherever you're from, nobody should have to die in the name of someone - or something - else.

 

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