I have tried to watch a football game and the boredom was mind-numbing, it is no wonder that many supporters of the 'beautiful' game congregate in groups and swig lager as a way to endure the hour and a half. That some are so stupefied by the experience that they resort to punching each other as a form of alternative entertainment shouldn't be a shock. That a football related story got me shouting at the radio as I drove to work yesterday is though somewhat of a shock. The story being that the FA are trying to concoct an argument that the poppy is not a political symbol. That the poppy is a political symbol is undeniable - whether players should be allowed to wear it on Armistice Day is a different argument.
My Grandad lied about his age to be able join the RAF and fight in WWII, he was a 'rear-gun Charlie' in a Lancaster Bomber, was shot down and spent time as a POW in Germany before escaping towards the end of the war. This much we know from photographs and paperwork, the rest of the stories are apocryphal because he never, ever spoke about it. At this time of year my Grandad wouldn't wear a poppy, on occasions venturing the opinion 'better off forgotten'. I have a lot of sympathy for my Grandad's view, remembering for the sake of remembering is pointless. If we are going to remember the sacrifices made by my Grandad and countless others it can only have meaning if it is to learn from the experiences of the past - if we learn nothing and are simply going to repeat mistakes and add to the pool of human suffering then yes, the horrors are better off forgotten. If the poppy is part of the act of remembering and the purpose of remembering is to learn so that our future is brighter than our past then the poppy is necessarily a political symbol and one we should all embrace. My Grandad's view was, I believe, based on a cynicism that humanity won't learn from its mistakes so remembrance is at best futile and at its worst a glorification of things that should never be glorified, sadly there is so much to prove him right.
I am incredibly proud of the child who lied so he could fight against fascism, proud that he was one of the many that ensured we have a tolerant and diverse society founded on a belief in human dignity and fundamental freedoms. I am saddened that again fascism is on the rise and that intolerance and hatred flow and I pray that we remember the suffering these beliefs wrought last time they rose up.
Unlike my Grandad I do wear a poppy, my poppy is white and in the centre is the word 'peace' - it comes from the Peace Poppy Union. The reason I wear a white poppy is because I believe that if we are going to remember the horrors of war we should remember all the victims of war, the so-called good guys, the so-called bad guys and the civilians of all shades. I believe that we should remember so that our future is more peaceful than our past. I believe that we can remember and honour the memory of all those who have suffered and died without having to glorify the wars that took them. I wear my white poppy with pride and embrace the political message it stands for.
Let us all wear our poppies with pride and make our act of remembrance a deeply political one so that it becomes an act that reminds of the past so that we have a better future. Let's make sure that the sacrifices made by so many were not futile.