Sunday, 12 November 2017
I wear a white poppy because it commemorates all the victims of war.
I know that those who wear a red poppy will have their own understanding of what it means to them, but the Royal British Legion who distribute them are very clear that it represents only British military deaths: no enemy combatants and no civilians. The failure to recognise those on the other side as equally victims of the systemic violence of war zones seems destined to continue a cycle of violent destruction. Whilst choosing not to remember the innocent civilians caught in the crossfire seems utterly absurd. As technology has advanced, warfare has become increasingly deadly, and it is most often civilians who have born the brunt: those who die, those who are injured, those who suffer as the result of destruction of infrastructure, and those who are displaced from their homes.
Wearing a white poppy is a way to mourn with and for all those who suffer as a result of armed conflict.
I also wear a white poppy because it carries with it an inherent commitment to challenge militarism and work for lasting peace.
In the total destruction of the western front, I can see how the survival of the apparently fragile poppies in the midst of a never-ending sea of mud and corpses served as a sign of hope: surrounded by destruction and death here was a bright glimmer of the possibility of new life. But while it may not always have been the case, the red poppy has, whether we like it or not, become a political symbol: it has become mixed up in questions of identity and patriotism; as well as with support for current military campaigns and the political ideology behind them.
Wearing a white poppy is a way to step outside any association with justifying ongoing military action and to commit to a search for peace.
It is only a symbol. But symbols are important. I will wear one again next year.