Last year, I wrote an article on why you should wear a poppy. Here is why you shouldn’t. (Disclaimer: you still should, but just not for these reasons.)
1) You shouldn’t wear a poppy for nationalistic reasons or to honour YOUR country.
The poppy symbolizes Peace. Peace among all countries. Not simply a truce of war.
It is red because of the red poppies in Flanders Fields, where the fallen soldiers from World War I (as well as other wars) lie – not in peace. They are unable to rest in peace because they have sworn not to until the entire world knows peace.
World War I is infamously known for having ended at 11AM on November 11th 1918 – also known as Armistice Day. However, this is inaccurate.
An armistice is simply an unofficial “ceasefire”, and since it was originally only for 36 days, it had to be extended four times until the Treaty of Versailles, which marked the diplomatic, official end of World War I, was signed in June 1919.
Furthermore, fighting didn’t even stop on November 11th, as 11 000 people died, went missing or were injured on that day alone.
The armistice had been agreed upon by the Central and the Allied Powers at 5:10 am that day and was set to come into effect at 11 am, but not all troops received the message in time. Therefore, battles were still causing bloodshed up until November 25th.
And even when World War I officially ended, troops almost immediately resumed their military training, suspecting a second world war was on the horizon, which, as we all know, it was.
And even today, peace does not exist everywhere. How many countries have been invaded, have invaded and have lost soldiers, civilians, and even non-human animals due to war over the past century?
Wearing a poppy to honour your country is hypocritical because your country is likely a catalyst for these ongoing wars. Instead, you should be wearing a poppy to honour the lives of those who have fought in what they believed in; who have sacrificed themselves for a war that did not grieve them, but that instead, raged on evermore violently.
Wear a poppy to remember the lives who have long since been forgotten.
2) You shouldn’t wear a poppy “to support the military industry”.
Wearing the poppy does not equate supporting the military industry. Supporting the military industry means encouraging a system of Neo-Imperialism deeply rooted in classism and nationalism.
The military effectively preys on lower-income individuals with the promise that it will pay for your tuition, your books, and other material. Its health plan is especially appealing in the USA, where they do not have free health care, but even in Canada, the military’s insurance is far above average.
The Canadian military’s insurance covers mental health, dental, vision care, medical examinations as well as other specialized care that isn’t always covered by insurance plans. This is why the lower classes are the most drawn to the military.
The military industry is also heavily nationalistic, as their mission statement reads:
“The mission of the Canadian Forces members is to defend our country, its interests and its values, while contributing to international peace and security.”
Canada prides itself on being a “peacekeeping nation,” but it has historically been quite the opposite.
In April 1993, Canada had 3 336 peacekeepers working alongside the UN but by May 2018, this number had dropped to a mere 40.
Retired Canadian general Lewis Mackenzie even goes as far as to say that “Peacekeeping was always a side line activity for the Canadian Armed Forces,” highlighting the fact that even from the 1960s to the 1980s, back when Canada was at its peak in regards to participating in peacekeeping missions, it only ever had about 1 500 peacekeepers deployed at a time, compared to the 10 000 troops, some even armed with nuclear weapons, deployed simultaneously with NATO in preparation for any potential USSR attack.
Nonetheless, in 2012, during the annual Focus Canada survey, 20% of respondents answered that, in their opinion, “peacekeeping” was Canada’s most positive contribution to the world. This is due to the population being very ill-informed concerning Canada’s true involvement in the international scene.
This is also why I must caution the wearers of the white poppy, the supposed “symbol of peace” that, according to Lyn Adamson, the national co-chair of The Canadian Voice of Women for Peace, recognizes the fact that the majority of deaths in wars are civilians.
Although the message may seem honourable, certain individuals misinterpret the purpose of the white poppy, thinking it is to counter the red poppy movement. Some are even claiming that the red poppy glorifies war.
As Brett Wilson once tweeted, “the Red Poppy does not glorify war, nor does the Yellow Daffodil glorify cancer.”
In fact, the White Poppies website actually encourages Canadians to wear both poppies, mentioning how they are complementary, as the red poppy supposedly only honours Canadian veterans, whereas the “peace poppy” specifically honours the citizens who have lost their lives in wars.
Of course, this is how the Royal Canadian Legion advertises the red poppy, to which it owns the trademark in Canada. Yet another example of capitalism ruining a positive thing.
The poppy symbol can be traced back to the Napoleonic Wars in the 19th century, where a writer noticed that poppies would grow on the graves of fallen soldiers in Flanders Fields; fields that were barren prior to the war.
The infamous poem of the same name was written 100 years later by John McCrae, a Canadian doctor who made the same realization.
Three years later, Moina Michael, an American working in an NYC YMCA canteen, started wearing a poppy to honour those who died during The Great War and the custom spread to France when a French woman Madame Guerin decided to make handmade poppies on her return from a trip to the United States in order to raise money for destitute children of war-torn areas.
So, whether or not the red poppy was even initially only to honour fallen soldiers can be questioned, but one thing is for sure: it was always a symbol of peace and it has international (as opposed to nationalistic) roots.
Thus, wearing a poppy for nationalist reasons or “to support the military industry” goes against the true meaning of the poppy and is extremely disrespectful to its history.
By Sophie Dufresne