13 November 2011

Red, white ... and sung blue

Ray Girvan, in a comment to my "Remembrance Day" post on Friday, made several good points with which I agreed, whilst arriving at slightly different behavioural results.

I am, in principle, a pacifist. It's a principle which i believe must always and everywhere be continuously striven for. At the same time, in world where war remains a regrettable reality, I acknowledge that we must decide how to act in the immediate present. I rarely support (indeed, usually vociferously oppose) foreign wars, but back in April I reluctantly supported NATO military operations in the face of threatened genocide in Libya. Three and a bit years ago, I described military forces as being like bacteria: simultaneously both essential to life and the source of many of its problems. Nevertheless, I do not waver from the view that pacifism is the ideal towards which we should always try to steer.

This year, for the first time in a quarter century or so of wearing a white poppy, I encountered aggression because of it. I have always had people disagree with me, sometimes criticise me, but always in a civilised manner – which is fine, and almost always valuable besides. Four days ago, I encountered the first person to tell be that I am "a fucking faggot" and threaten to stuff the white poppy down my throat. While this wasn't a pleasant encounter, I regard the uniqueness of its occurrence as a generally positive aspect of the society within which I live.

There is another side, though ... what my friend Maureen (a one time European Union administrator) yesterday called “poppy fundamentalism”. I like her term better than “poppy fascism” which, in my opinion, devalues language. Whatever we call it, however, the phenomenon is the same: treatment of a (red) poppy on one's lapel as a shibboleth. Either you wear it or you are somehow suspect.

I agree with the British Legion's expressed viewpoint, three years back, that it doesn't have a problem "whether you wear a red one or a white one, both or none at all".

Joan Smith, writing in her Independent on Sunday column today, sums up my view of this: “The dead we honour won our freedom to disagree”.


Acerone said...

Amazing - i read this post following replying to the last. It seems i am not the only one to have been on the receiving end of abuse because of a white poppy. I am truly sorry to hear that this happened, completely uncalled for.

I do think there is something very interesting about 'poppy fundamentalism' - i realised i was the only person speaking at a conference last week that wasnt wearing a red poppy. Being 11/11 and stating at 11am, the conference began with a 2 min silence, which only highlighted the fact i was 'an odd one out' without a poppy.

I did consider wearing a white poppy as i tend to feel my views are more in line with what they represent than a red one, but i chose not to wear any - i think for fear that i might provoke a negative reaction when i was speaking to a group with the exact opposite intention!

Interestingly though, i still felt that perhaps it had been noticed that i wasn't included in the poppy wearing community, but felt that perhaps that wearing none would be less offensive to poppy fundamentalists than wearing a white one...

Geoff said...

Felix writes " I reluctantly supported NATO military operations in the face of threatened genocide in Libya."
Yet, we stand by when other bullies - in Syria, Uganda and other - terrorise their people unless there is a profit for us.
I too am a pacifist yet will do whatever it takes - take up arms if need be - to defend myself, my loved ones, my neigbbours, my freedom.
I have always intervened when seeing a bully, human or animal, attacking another, animal or human.

"The soldier, above all other people, prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war" - MacArthur

I once upon a time
shared a room
and ate and slept
and laughed
and cried
with men who had suffered
the deepest wounds
and scars or war
whilst defending me from the fascist
not like today's "heroes"
who set fire to lands afar
and who
from afar
on and off
without care
arms and legs
these "heroes"
are beyond repair