Friday, November 8, 2013

What Colour is Peace, Anyway?

Controversy alert!  If white poppies offend you, please do not continue reading...

So, I’m having a little trouble understanding the controversy over the white poppy thing.  I do not get why people are choosing to be so offended by it.   Throughout my life I’ve been told that all those soldiers fought and died for my freedom.  Does that not mean that I have the freedom to choose what colour poppy I wear?

For the record, I’m not wearing a poppy at all this year.  Red or white.   Let me explain…

Every year I go out and buy a poppy.  And every year as I pin it to my jacket I wonder why I do this.  Now before anyone gets all bent out of shape and starts telling me that it’s to remember the fallen soldiers who fought and died for my freedom, I do not remember.  WWII ended nearly two decades before I was born.  I am aware.  But I don’t remember. 

And before anyone starts getting all freaky-deaky about that wee fact, let me state for the record that I truly am ever so grateful to be living in a country where I can and do enjoy the freedoms that I do. 

It is not my intention to minimize the impact that the great wars have had on my life in any way.  I do, however, defend the right of any Canadian to choose how they symbolize that impact, particularly if it is in a way that is relevant to their own experience and perception.  I dare say that none of the Ottawa students who adopted the white poppy remember either.

Change is inevitable.  The veterans of WWI and II are nearly all gone.  A new generation of remembrance is upon us and I think it’s important to listen to the youth and try, at least, to understand where they are coming from.  It isn’t the first half of the 20th century.  And they have, as we all have, including the remaining WW veterans, been impacted by many other wars as well. 

Yes, the red poppy is a symbol of peace.  Is it so terrible that – like all things  – it evolve?  Is it really a bad thing that a new generation injects its own flavor into remembrance?  They are not being disrespectful at all.  They are merely saying, “I love the freedom I enjoy and I wish to express it this way.”  What is the harm in that?

So I’m not wearing a poppy this year.  Not because I don’t feel any gratitude for the life I have because of the sacrifices made nearly a hundred years ago, but because I’m grateful every day for the freedom I have.  The freedom to express myself and to symbolize that gratitude the way that suits me because of those same sacrifices. 
This controversy has been referred to as “The War of the Poppies” and I’m conscientiously objecting to it.  I’m actually toying with idea of cutting out an orange poppy and wearing that because while the poppy itself represents peace – which I’m all for, by the way – orange, to me, represents creativity and I think we can come up with much more creative ways of dealing with our differences than fighting about it.  Or judging each other for not complying with our way of thinking. 

I, for one, want to hear what these young students think – why they chose the white poppy and what it means to them.  I’m proud of any youth who feels they have something to contribute, who feels they have a voice and uses it to express how they feel, who is willing to – just like everyone of us did in our own way during our youths – stand up for and exercise their rights and freedoms.  Isn't the fact that these young people are bothering to "remember" at all, the most important thing?

Do we not all have a right to our own opinions?  Do we not have the right to enjoy the freedoms those soldiers fought and died for?  It really does seem to me that telling white poppy wearers they are being disrespectful is basically negating the whole point of remembrance and limiting the freedoms that those soldiers fought and died for. 

By all means, if you prefer the red poppy, that okay with me.  Red poppy wearers are entitled to their opinions, too.  I merely hope that this white poppy/red poppy thing can, rather than be the source of resentment and argument, become an opportunity for cooperation, dialogue, respect, and acceptance between the generations that have such a wide range of experience to draw on.    A real inspiration for real peace!

1 comment:

  1. Poppies are worn, not always to 'remember' the wars as in personal experience and memory, but just as much now to recognize the fact that these wars were fought, but also that there are still soldiers out there fighting to protect that freedom, and to bring freedom to many other countries. And the veterans of today need all the change that's donated through the poppy drive, to give them support in years to come (especially as our government seems to have cut them off). What color poppy is probably irrelevant, but the red ones get noticed. Nothing wrong with tradition, as well as change.


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