Remembrance Day Thoughts

Okay, disclaimer time. If I cause offence I apologize, I’ve done my best to be respectful and just share my view on things, so any offence is unintentional. If you want to voice your opinion, fell free to post a comment.

Some of the Remembrance Day stuff makes me a tad uncomfortable.

I can’t help thinking that the intention of a sombre memorial to the horrors and waste of the First World War has been turned into something a bit more unsavoury, a more hyped up patriotic stance that glorifies the war dead. Following WWI there was no way of glorifying it, I doubt many wanted to, they just hoped that by observing the day and remembering the scale of life lost during the conflict it might lead future generations to seek other avenues of resolution.

Unfortunately that is not the case, and Britain has been involved in several wars since, some were unavoidable and, it could be argued, justified, but others have been on less firmer footing and the question could be asked whether we should have been involved at all.

I have great sympathy for the men who died in the First World War and every conflict after, and respect for those who risked their lives to stop Hitler and the forces of Nazism, and I hope that those serving in Afghanistan and elsewhere are safe and arrive home with as little damage as possible. But I must say this, and I intend no offence:

Being a soldier does not make someone a hero.

Heroism, which is an abstract concept anyway, is not something you can get by joining an organisation or putting on a uniform. It is something that is defined by your own actions and how you perform them. Individual soldiers are capable of heroism, entire units may perform heroic deeds, but simply joining up does not make you one. It makes you an employee of the government like a police officer, nurse or traffic warden.

Soldiers are like any other group of people, there will be a mix of the good and the bad. There will be soldiers who risk their lives to save their comrades, or who display kindness and consideration to the local population, but there will also be those who abuse their power or kill civilians. Judging all by either end of the spectrum is wrong.

And also, if every soldier is a hero, does that make all non-soldiers cowards?

So while I support Remembrance Day I do not agree with the way it has been transformed into something which has been seen as honouring “our brave boys” and even less happy to view the way that it has become a method for cheap political point scoring or scapegoating.

Witness the BBC, where everyone from about mid-October appears with a poppy on display. While I don’t doubt that several of the corporation’s employees would wish to remember the dead it appears that a large part of it is to avoid any backlash at those who don’t wear poppies.

Does a poppy that someone has been handed and made to wear in an effort to avoid criticism really convey what the day is meant to be about? If you’ve had one pinned onto your suit jacket for a good few weeks are you really remembering at all?

When celebrities go out in November without one they sometimes get blasted in the press and a gaggle of numpties will spring up calling them traitors or calling them out for dishonouring the memory of the men who died for the country.

The thing I’ve seen thrown up is the “what they did for you” argument towards non-Poppy wearers. Surely the Second World War, where the idea of fighting for our freedom is most compelling and apt, means that we don’t all have to wear a poppy. That it is a choice we are all free to make for ourselves?

Choosing to wear a poppy doesn’t make you morally superior to those who choose not to, and in fact, if you’re merely doing it to save face and out of consideration for what others think then in a way you’re worse.

I didn’t buy a poppy this year, not out of a political stance or lack of care for the cause, I just didn’t see any on sale as we got closer to Remembrance Day (I haven’t been shopping in town and the local small shop didn’t seem to have any). If they’d have had any, I would have bought one, but that’s my personal choice, and I wouldn’t judge those who don’t chose to buy one.

Freedom of choice is the freedom for others to chose things you disagree with. It might anger me that James Blunt’s “You’re Beautiful” was at number one for 5 weeks, but its people’s choice to buy that whining song.

Next year, I may decide to buy a white poppy, something I was previously not that aware of. This serves to show a desire for peace in the future, while also serving to commemorate casualties in war.

Frankie Boyle on Jonathan Ross show wearing a white poppy

 

I’ve seen many people online whinging about these and saying that they’re a disgrace and what-not, but surely when the first poppies went on sale back in 1919 the people who wore them shared the same  desire for peace, but the wearing of a white poppy kind of serves to make it more overt and I’d wear one to show my respect for the dead but also my desire not to glorify their deaths.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

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One Comment on “Remembrance Day Thoughts”

  1. Michael Snow says:

    I like the ring of Remembrance. Many people in the states do not even know that Veterans Day, here, was once Armistice Day.
    On 11 November, the warring parties signed the armistice,
    bringing that great bloodbath to an end.
    Only those who suffered through those cataclysmic
    events truly understood the meaning of that day….
    The deep meaning of that armistice remained in the
    minds of World War I veterans a half century later
    when the U.S. Congress, in one of its clueless moves,
    changed the observance of the federal holiday from
    November 11th to a certain Monday of October. Memorial
    Day, Veterans Day and Washington’s Birthday
    were all moved on the calendar in order to create
    three-day federal holiday weekends.
    Because of the war that had followed that “War to
    End All Wars,” President Eisenhower had signed a
    law that broadened the meaning of “Armistice Day”
    by making it “Veterans Day” in 1954. But in the
    minds of the World War I generation, the memory of
    that armistice still held sway.
    So, in the late 1960s when Congress changed the
    date, I can still remember my grandmother adamantly
    asserting that Armistice Day was November 11th,
    NOT the fourth Monday of October. The thousands
    of soldiers who, like my grandfather, had served in
    France and other lands would not hear of such a
    change.
    …The end result was that one decade after changing
    the date, Congress, in 1978, restored the observance
    to November 11th.
    from http://www.amazon.com/Oh-Holy-Night-Peace-1914/dp/1616230800/ref=la_B001KMODGY_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1353089969&sr=1-1


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