In recent years Jon Snow, the excellent Channel 4 News presenter, has created a huge stir regarding his decision not to wear a red poppy on TV during the weeks leading up to Remembrance Day. A couple of years ago Snow stated:
"I am begged to wear an Aids ribbon, a breast cancer ribbon, a Marie Curie flower ... You name it, from the Red Cross to the RNIB, they send me stuff to wear to raise awareness, and I don't. And in those terms, and those terms alone, I do not and will not wear a poppy. Additionally there is a rather unpleasant breed of poppy fascism out there - 'he damned well must wear a poppy!' Well I do, in my private life, but I am not going to wear it or any other symbol on air."
Personally I like and admire Jon Snow. Indeed I think he is one of the nation's best - if not the best - broadcast journalists and rightly commands huge respect from both his peers and the public at large. But on this issue I am not sure that I totally agree with him. What is wrong with wearing the odd "symbol" on air and surely we can all make exceptions? Jon's logic appears to be that because he is unable to publicly promote all of the causes that he is asked to support he simply won't support any of them. This is a bit like arguing that because I can't give to all of the charities that ask for my help I won't give to any charity.
The poppy is 'The' symbol of remembrance. We do not diminish anyone by wearing it, least of all the veterans. Diminishing the debt we owe our predecessors would be accomplished by resigning ourselves to the notion that we cannot comprehend what happened. We undermine the notion of Remembrance Day by lack of reflection, not flippantly wearing, or not wearing, a poppy.
I strongly believe that focusing on the future is done by reflecting on the past. Wearing the poppy symbolises that an individual, at the very least, acknowledges the past. A poppy has never been a substitute for action - no symbol ever is - but we must be sure that what the poppy symbolises is not lost on those who seek to build upon our freedoms.
So I will be wearing my poppy this November. Out of some misguided sense of jingoistic pride? No. Out of respect and gratitude? Yes. Why? Because the act of remembrance and the wearing of a poppy is a very small price to pay.