Monday, 9 November 2015

The White Poppy - Time for a Rethink All Round?

Following on from discussions on other forums about yesterday's Remembrance Day events, one couldn't help but notice that Syon ward councillor Katherine Dunne was sporting a white poppy at the Isleworth parade alongside the traditional red one, emblazoned with the word "Peace".

Personally I thought this was a nice touch. So often I have found myself nonplussed by the abuse I have received from a very small minority of people when selling poppies, usually accompanied by allegations that I am a warmonger and an apologist for murder. Yet I have opposed UK and Western military aggression in North Africa and the Middle East as outspokenly and as consistently as any anti-war campaigner from the so-called "left".

Similarly there is undoubtedly a feeling amongst some to whom the Remembrance season is held dear that those who choose to wear the white poppy are unpatriotic, even traitors, whose act betrays those who have given their lives. This despite the fact that they call only for peace and an end to war - a sentiment which, in my opinion and experience, is shared by the overwhelming majority of ex-servicemen and women as well as right-thinking people everywhere.

The former ICG councillor Dr. Genevieve Hibbs was a pacifist who, when she became Mayor of Hounslow, struggled with her conscience in the knowledge that she would be expected to attend the annual ceremony of Remembrance and to play a prominent part in proceedings. I remember having a long conversation with her in which I managed to persuade her that Remembrance was not a celebration of war but an act of respect for those who had lost their lives as a result of the failure of politics and of national leaders worldwide to reconcile their differences peacefully. Indeed some may even see it is an act of defiance to those people, a reaffirmation of the gratitude and debt that we feel to those brave men and women who put their lives on the line in contrast to the contempt that we may hold for those who casually send them out to fight from their comfort and safety of their own pampered offices. I am pleased to say she attended the event and did Isleworth proud.

There needs in my view to be a rethink on the part of all concerned. The moral snobbery contained in the notion held by a few that people who wear the red poppy are all monsters who celebrate in blood and death is as insulting and obscene as it is patently ridiculous. There need be no contradiction between remembering with fondness and gratitude those who gave their lives, and aspiring for a peaceful future in which war is made a thing of the past.