Why I wear a white poppy

Here’s the way I choose to Remember


Growing up I was a fairly big participator in Remembrance. I was always one of the first to buy a poppy, I marched in the Sunday parade in my local town and performed in a recital focused on the importance of the issue. I'd read lots about the World Wars as a child and teenager and I couldn't help but feel incredibly sad about what people went through to protect our livelihoods.

But as I got older, I started to dislike the way the red poppy was used throughout November and indeed the rest of the year. When I'd bought one it was a real sign of my deep sadness for what people had gone through. It was a real personal choice. And this is not to say that for many people today the choice to wear a poppy is not one that's greatly considered and important. But there are many cases where this was just not true.

Some people, I feel, wear them because they feel they have to and sometimes people are made to wear one by those in a position of power above them. TV Media is the classic example of this, from the beginning of November nearly everyone you seen on the British media will be wearing a poppy. No matter whether or not they explicitly chose to, some may not even know what they're wearing a poppy for. A classic example of this is on Strictly Come Dancing when all the dancers and judges will be wearing sparkly poppies on their outfits. This to me has never made any sense, is a glittering poppy really the most sober token of Remembrance?

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Of course, having them so prevalent on the media translates to real life. And in some circles not wearing a red poppy in November can come with an uncomfortable backlash. In fact, a large factor as to why I wear the poppy I do, is because as a teenager I was in a school community that made the red poppy feel uncomfortably militaristic and necessary. To not wear a poppy for the annual Remembrance Day assembly was unacceptable, if you entered with an empty lapel one would be swiftly pinned on in order to keep face. This to me removed the considered thought that should be behind the choice to wear such a symbol.

It was whilst in this environment that I got taught about an alternative. The white poppy is produced by the Peace Pledge Union and every year the number of people wearing it is increasing. It represents three things: remembering all those who have been killed in warfare, including civilians and those who refused to fight; standing up for peace, and denouncing everyday militarism that goes along with the continued glorification of war.

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Throughout my early teens as I started to identify as a pacifist wearing the red poppy and attending remembrance was for me an act of promoting peace, as I'm sure it is others. But by wearing a red poppy I can't help but feel that there's some glorification of war. Yes, we must remember those who died in order to protect our country but in the same breath people seem to forget just what horrible circumstances these men and women often died in. I can't help feel that by exalting the dead soldiers every year we gloss over not only what horrors they all individually went through but continue to allow such atrocities to go ahead without batting an eyelid. And I know that by wearing a poppy it does not mean you support war but lack of peace promotion at a time where it feels most appropriate is what puts me at unease.

Another part of the red poppy that made me uncomfortable is that its scope for remembrance is so narrow. The British Legion is quite specific that the poppy should be worn to remember British veterans and their families. There's nothing wrong with this, I understand the idea of wanting to remember those who's experience you can relate to. But, personally I like to widen the scope of those I remember to extend beyond the British Legion's. When the red poppy was first created civilians only accounted for five per cent of wartime deaths, now in the 21st Century that figure is 90 per cent, many of these being children. On top of that we must think of non-British veterans who fought on behalf of their own country and those who did due to demands of British colonial rule. Just because these people didn't fight or weren't British it doesn't make them any less human and any less worthy of remembering.

There are lots of reasons why people wear the white poppy, this is just my own take based on the attitudes and experiences I've seen through my life. And I feel wearing the white poppy is what's most comfortable for me. And that is what's important, that we each reflect on Remembrance in a way that feels most suitable to us. It is not a political act but something deeply personal that must be respected as we approach this sombre occasion.

To find out more visit the Peace Pledge Union.