Poppies and Pitt: Losing sight of what Remembrance Day is about.

Right off the bat, to avoid any confusion, I’m going to say that I’m all for Remembrance Day. Or to be clearer, I’m with the old fashioned meaning of it- that it’s a day to remember the horror and death of the World Wars and other conflicts Britain has involved itself in. It’s about remembering the sacrifice of the men and women who have given their lives, but I’ve always taken part of it to be that while we honour them we never forget the needless waste of war.

This is after all something born in the aftermath of the First World War, which still serves as a towering example of senseless, futile violence and the way it’s the guys at the bottom who pay the price for the arrogance and lust for power of the dudes at the top. In my mind it’s never been a day about glory or heroism, it’s been a day to hope that young men aren’t called on again to be those heroes who never come home.

Queen visits Poppy Factory

Sadly, two things have changed regarding Remembrance Day, both in the course of my lifetime. Both are connected to each other, the first is a kind of jingoistic glorifying in the military and the second is that it has become used as cheap point scoring in the media and politics.

Wearing a poppy, formerly a sign of respect has now become some kind of measure of how British you are and indicative of this absurd culture of show grief we’ve adopted of late. It’s not about wearing a poppy now, it’s about not wearing one. If you ain’t wearing one on TV you’re attacked for it, people say that you’re dishonouring the memory or something.

Maybe you just didn’t have a chance to pick one up, or forgot it that day. As is, the major channels here are so damn petrified of catching flak over it they seem to hand them out to every presenter and guest from mid-October. Are these people really respecting the day, or even thinking about it? No, they’re just wearing something they’ve been given to avoid getting stick for not wearing it.

Does it matter if Alan Hansen or Lorraine Kelly doesn’t wear one on TV? Does that automatically mean they don’t care about anything to do with those who gave their lives. Is it a mark of disrespect? Are they being offensive? I don’t think so. For those who served I doubt a TV presenter wearing a paper flower or not makes a damn bit of difference. They’re probably more offended by idiots like the EDL performing fascist salutes or events like the killing of a wounded man in Afghanistan by the men who continue their legacy.

In fact the whole culture of poppy shaming and the forced wearing of them is in itself disrespectful.

The practice removes personal choice and feeling and instead becomes something used to attack and scapegoat those who don’t fall into line. If we fought the Second World War to ensure freedom then this goes against that and smacks of the kind of nationalistic fervor that gripped countries like Italy and Germany in the ’30s or the “with us or against us” paranoia of the Cold War, where any sign of dissent or failure to follow was viewed as you being one of the other side.

Not wearing a poppy doesn’t mean you hate Britain, but that’s irrelevant anyway. Remembrance Day isn’t a national thing, we shouldn’t just be thinking of our own. We should be remembering and regretting the loss of life from all over, be those lives British, American, Australian, Canadian, Russian, French, Belgian, Dutch, Italian, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Argentinian, Iraqi, Afghan or German. Dudes from all those countries have lost their lives in wars that many of them were forced into because of the actions and decisions of their rulers.

The Jerry who bought it in the mud of France on the orders of his Kaiser is just as sad and as much of a waste as the Tommy who died for his King. Neither probably wanted to be there, and was there because someone else made that decision and pushed for it.

We get hung up on the glory side to our peril. Glorifying the dead is understandable, in World War Two especially the men we sent to die were fighting a truly evil regime and liberating occupied Europe, and their resolution and courage in holding their ground is admirable. But never should our respect for them turn into glorifying the whole military system or be used a measure of our own decency.

Recently Brad Pitt caught some crap in the press because they filmed battle scenes for his WW2 movie Fury, on November the 10th, Remembrance Sunday. Of course, being a WW2 movie, this involved some actors dressed as Nazis.

This prompted the Daily Mirror and others to go into full meltdown and the movie’s director, David Ayer made a public apology later in the week, possibly at the urging of studio execs, because had I been in his position I probably would have just wanted to tell people to get a grip or pull head from ass.

pitt controversy

Because let’s face it this is a non issue, for several reasons, let’s take a look at them:

  • Remembrance Sunday isn’t really the proper day, it’s just that’s when they have the big show events and the Christian services. So, if you ain’t Christian, then it doesn’t really mean anything to you.
  • These guys were working. Sucks to work weekends, I know, but it’s gotta be done sometimes, and movies are a pretty big business, they probably scheduled this ages ago and that’s the way the cookie crumbles. Stopping the production might have cost them a fair bit, and while Sony aren’t exactly scraping by, they’re trying to run a business, so I get it.
  • I haven’t seen a script but I’m guessing that the Nazis are the bad guys in this flick, so how in anyway is this glorifying their exploits during WW2?
  • Couldn’t you make the argument that filming a WW2 movie is actually remembering the events?
  • Are the idiots who got offended really being that respectful themselves? One of the comments on the Huffington Post article was “So. Another film that makes America out to be the heroes of the war………What a load of B.S. I won’t be watching it.” I mean, that guy is so respectful of the day, he’s casually undermining the efforts of all the Americans who served in the war. Sure, they got involved a little late, but you gotta be damned fool not to appreciate that had they not turned up we were pretty screwed. Hell, Winston Churchill knew that as soon as the Yanks were drawn in things were going to get easier for us.

And the major problem with this reaction is that Remembrance Day or the Sunday isn’t about life grinding to a halt. It’s about us pausing for a moment to remember those who died but life goes on. And in a way, isn’t that respecting what they fought for? That society continues, and that thankfully the closest most of us will come to war is in a cinema seat?

Remembrance Day is being tarnished, not by Brad making a movie, but by idiots using it as a tool to flog papers, scapegoat others and guilt trip people. If you agree with Remembrance Day buy a poppy, but if you don’t or think you should remain impartial and not show preference to one charity organisation like ITV newsreader Charlene White did, then that’s your decision.

charlene white

I mean, it says something that some douchebags thought that White not wearing a poppy was terrible but didn’t mind hurling racist abuse at her. If you’re part of the poppy shaming brigade, you stand with those guys, and that alone should give you pause for thought about the right of what you’re doing.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


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