Flag day

First of all, here is a link to the Royal British Legion website, where you can donate money to their cause, which is to support the families of British service men and women injured or killed in armed conflict around the world. These are the stated values of the British Legion:

  • Reflection – through Remembrance of past sacrifice in the cause of freedom
  • Hope – by remembering the past, a younger generation has the chance of a better future
  • Comradeship – through shared experience and mutual support
  • Selflessness – by putting others first
  • Service – to those in need and in support of the whole community

Now, forgive me if I spell this one out, but in foolishly attempting to state my case on Twitter yesterday, I have caused a minority to call me names, and I wish to clear the air in more than 140 characters: one way of showing your support to the work of the British Legion, and to publicly remember those British service personnel who have been killed since the First World War, is to wear a red poppy. Should you wish to donate money to the British Legion, either in person or via their website, and not wear a poppy, is up to you; it’s your choice. Is it, some might say, the very freedom of choice that servicemen and women fought for in the Second World War. (It is also your choice whether or not to donate, but that is a different matter.)

As I stated on Twitter, my views on war and servicemen and women are too complex to reduce to the wearing or not wearing of a paper flower, so I choose not to. This is not a stance, or a boycott, if anything it is an absence – the absence of a need to display my feelings in the street. The only reason I mentioned this on Twitter in the first place is that I am already feeling peer pressure and emotional pressure to wear one. Fortunately, I have not been on television during the run-up to Remembrance Sunday, so have not been in a position where it has been broadcaster policy and thus been coerced into doing so. (NB: See Chris Treece’s comment about BBC poppy policy below.)

The poppy is good. Its original meaning is sound: poppies grew in Flanders fields (as captured in John McCrae’s poem In Flanders Fields) and elsewhere after the First World War and so represents rebirth and positivity, and – for me, anyway – something natural and not man-made reclaiming the earth after the earth has been scorched and muddied and associated with death by something unnatural and very man-made ie. war. The poppy, introduced here in 1921, is worn for essentially good reasons: to remember the dead. I have no problem with it, or anybody who wears one. The outward display of a personal belief – that the dead should be remembered – is not a bad thing. It is just not for me. I would hope that anyone who knows me knows that I have a great deal of compassion for people and animals, and this is borne out in my worldview – and in the charities I support. For those who don’t know me, why should I worry about what they think? If they pass me in the street, see my lack of poppy (which, by the way, is not that uncommon – I must have passed 150 people between Tube station and the BBC yesterday and I counted four, two of which were worn by security staff; and only one today between Tube and library) do they come to conclusion, “Oh, he must be glad that men and women have died in wars”? I sincerely hope not.

I don’t wear badges or wristbands or ribbons or flags that denote which charities and causes I support, because I am happy just supporting them. I am at peace with myself, and with those that wear such things. I do not judge others for wearing a wristband or a ribbon. I might assume that they support a particular charity or cause, but that is their choice. I don’t think they are more compassionate than me because they tell me that they are in a coded way, but I assume that they are compassionate. But I assume people are compassionate unless given evidence to the contrary. I certainly don’t assume that anyone not wearing a Lance Armstrong wristband is pleased that people have died of cancer. So why should anyone seeing my lapel think anything negative about me?

Feelings clearly run high on this issue. Someone called Lisa posted a message here on the end of an unrelated entry calling me “a disgrace,” and effectively ordering me to wear one. (Someone on Twitter who felt passionately about the subject suggested I wear one and “do the decent thing.”) I really do object to being ordered to do something – this is one step away from bullying. It’s emotionally charged and unnecessary. Call me names for bad things I have done, not for supposedly virtuous things I have not done. I accept that, on a very modest scale, I am a public figure. Anyone who writes books and appears on radio or telly is. But that does not mean I have to set an example. I would rather influence people by airing my views on serious matters when the time is right and when the forum allows me to explain myself. I am usually caricatured as a woolly liberal, and to be honest, I am happy enough with that. It doesn’t cover all my views, or reflect all my opinions, but it’s a start. Certainly, I don’t feel like “a disgrace.” (I am hoping Lisa will engage in a debate under this entry, but I also hope she will withdraw her accusation of me being a “disgrace”. I save that word up for people who have done something to harm others.)

Please donate to the British Legion if you believe they are worthy of support, and please do not feel any self-consciousness about wearing or not wearing a poppy. Do what you please. I read an interesting blog yesterday from an ex-serviceman who said he chose not to wear a poppy because he couldn’t bear the hypocrisy of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown wearing one when they actually sent soldiers to their deaths under false pretenses. That’s a fairly extreme view, but one that he is entitled to. (Certainly, for politicians, it is an opportunity for them to appear to commune with the nation on an issue they consider beyond party politics, even though war is completely political, especially the wars we are currently engaged in.)

My brother was in the British Army for 15 years and put his life at risk, like many soldiers do. I admit, this colours my otherwise woolly liberal views, as do the numerous books I have read about the hard realities of war, from Waterloo to Iraq. I have not, nor will I ever, put myself willingly in an armed conflict, because I am a coward. That, thus far, has been my choice. Many who were conscripted from 1914 onwards in this country were probably also cowards, but stepped up when the situation required it. I respect them as much as I respect anyone who volunteers. Why? Because they are human beings. I happen not to believe in killing other human beings, which is why my stance on the military is complicated. I do not believe in the death penalty. Others do. I do not think they are a “disgrace” for believing in it. I just disagree with them.

In many ways, yesterday’s debate on Twitter was stimulating, but it was also, for me, infuriating, as I kept having to reiterate the same arguments, in 140 characters. I would much rather debate it here. Equally, I hope I have made my case clear enough, so that there is nothing else to debate, although I am happy to publish any views that do not cross the line of decency, and are posted under a name, even if it’s a made up one.

Please do not judge anyone by their poppy or their lack of poppy. We live in a free country, where feelings about war are complicated and full of grey areas, and where our service men and women are currently being killed and injured on a daily basis. It is possible to support them, and the families they leave behind, without supporting the wars they are fighting. It is also possible to support them without telling everybody.

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67 thoughts on “Flag day

  1. Andrew, I agree with you and think that it is totally right that it is your decision to wear or not wear a poppy.I wear a poppy, and I would encourage and remind people to buy one or donate on the website. But I would never be upset or troubled if somebody said they didn't want to wear one.

  2. Well said. I hadn't realised before that it was such a contentious issue; I thought we had free speech and freedom of expression in this country?It's not a disgrace not to wear a poppy; if anything it's a disgrace to wear one just because it's the done thing, without sentiment or feeling. If you are going to wear a poppy you ought to know why you're doing so and what it represents, it's not a fashion statement or a way of fitting in.I shan't be wearing a poppy either.

  3. Andrew,I think your point of view is spot on and a lot more considered than people who have the knee-jerk reaction of "no poppy equals hating our troops".Some people in this country don't seem to understand that you can be against the war but for the troops, but for me it's the only humane response.In fact, I consider the life of one of our troops to be of equal worth as my life or the life of an Iraqi or Afghan civilian or soldier. This is obviously not going to be a popular opinion but it's the only logical conclusion if you believe that all human beings are equal regardless of race, religion or class. Mind you, it takes some balls to argue that in the pub ;)Pretty much all war could be avoided if the people sending our troops out to fight had ever had to risk life and limb in combat. Tony Blair and George Bush had the luxury of being very rich and very safe and so could play with the army like they were toy soldiers. That's the real disgrace.Toby.

  4. Fortunately, I have not been on television during the run-up to Remembrance Sunday, so have not been in a position where it has been broadcaster policy and thus been coerced into doing so.This is interesting; I've often wondered if certain broadcasters or production companies force poppies on their guests around this time of year. Is "force" even the right word? Are you more expected to wear one if you're on BBC1 than BBC2/3/4?

  5. Two years ago I wore a white poppy, but I think some people find this even more 'confrontational' than not wearing one at all. As far as I remember I didn't wear one last year, and drew no comment. This year I'm in Germany and don't have to think about it. It's a tricky question though – I know some people wear a red and white poppy side by side, which seems an elegant solution, if a bit fussy. Certainly though, what one does or doesn't decide to pin to one's lapel is nobody's business – I'm far more fastidious about my ribbon on World AIDS Day than the poppy, but I'm hardly going to foist it on anyone.

  6. Nice post Andrew. Not being on twitter I missed all this, but I can imagine the limitation on characters means that twitter is perhaps not the best forum for a debate on a complicated and obviously emotive subject.As to my feelings about the poppy subject…I feel quite similar to yourself. Plenty of people choose not to wear a poppy, and they will do so for a multitude of reasons. Without speaking to them we cannot possibly know why. I do not wear one – and living in Berlin would also add another layer of complication to the topic – but I never used to wear one when I was in England. That said, I would usually donate, as my feelings about war and the governments that send soldiers to them are separate for how I feel about the individuals themselves, whether veterans or those currently fighting.In any case, I think you have stated your position in an articulate and sensible way, and I just wanted to say you are very far from being a disgrace.(on this topic at least. when it comes to homeopathy, wheat and oak milk, well… :-)Oh, and bring the podcast to Berlin…Richard might have to leave his moustache at home however…

  7. Nice post Andrew. And a good demonstration of the limitations of Twitter.Personally, I like to wear a poppy not just because I support the sterling work of the British Legion but also because I think they look good on my lapel. In fact, I don't take mine off until 12 days after Xmas.

  8. Sometimes I buy or wear a poppy, sometimes I don't. I recognise the loss of those who fought and died for this country in its various wars but I don't 'celebrate' it. It's not about heroism for me but sadness at the loss of life and you can't go around explaining that to everyone you pass in the street just so they're clear. As you've mentioned, the complex political issues, in particular the government's recent waging of wars of aggression, have meant that wearing a poppy can now be confused for a gesture of support for troops engaged in wars one might not support. Wear one, don't wear one. It's a personal choice. Just because I may choose not to wear a poppy and don't support some of the conflicts in which our armed service people have died, it does not mean I am not sad for the people of all nations who die in them. Most of the time I'll pop a pound in the box but won't take a poppy, but even then I'll get annoyed that we don't have collections for the many victims of armed services…

  9. Spot on Andrew. I agree with you completely on this one, and I am by no means a "wooly liberal", as you describe yourself. Any instance where people are forced , either directly or through peer pressure, to behave in a certain way is dangerous ground and should be examined carefully. Personally, I support the Legion and have purchased a poppy every year since I was old enough to understand the meaning behind doing so. However, I stopped wearing them years ago as, frankly, they always fall off my suit jacket within hours and it seems a waste. So I just pop some money in they tin and go on my way.Nobody has ever commented on this to my face. Maybe the anonymous nature of the internet makes it easier to bully people into sharing your views…

  10. Unfortunately the right to use the internet extends to everyone. This includes folk like me who, at a younger age, will have ranted and responded inappropriately. So I have a certain amount of empathy for the people who had a go on twitter. I've been a dick online too and regretted it later.In Ireland there is a curious reticence to wearing the poppy. It has traditionally not been observed despite the fact that during the 20th Century many thousands of Irish men served in the British army. Among them was my great-grandfather who died in the First World War in a field somewhere in France.Would I wear a poppy in remembrance ? No. I don't need to. In the same way that I don't need to stick 'breast cancer' and 'child abuse' awareness ribbons on my car, nor do I feel the need wear an Easter Lilly to commemorate the 1916 Rising, nor do I wear badges and buttons supporting any cause that takes my fancy.The only reason I would wear a poppy would be to defy those in my country who would have a "problem" with this. I can almost picture the knuckle-dragging-idiot resplendent in his barclays premiership soccer shirt hassling me for 'supporting the brits'.People eh ?

  11. I hope everyone takes from this the importance of standing up for your beliefs, don't let the bullies drag us all down.Looking at the British Legion's aims, I feel that selflessness is not something we should be told to emulate. It is not the same thing as being either kind or courageous and is in fact almost impossible. It's in our biology to be slightly selfish, we take responsibility for ourselves individually and that includes the fight for survival. People who try to be selfless (usually women) end up with mental illness. It's the kind of thing we used to be told in assembly at primary school but fortunately most children don't take it to heart.

  12. Pretty boring, I know, but I'm adding myself to the list of people agreeing with you completely, Andrew. We're not getting much debate going here are we? I find myself wanting someone with a ridiculous viewpoint to turn up just so we can have a (friendly) argument.I myself don't wear poppies anymore, but like yourself I don't have anything against people who do. It's one of those very annoying aspects of society where people think you have to do some arbitrary thing to "show respect" for something. I HAVE respect for things, without the need to broadcast it with a symbol saying "Look at me! Aren't I a good person?!" Now I'm not saying every poppy/wristband/ribbon wearer is doing that, but we certainly know that many are. There's nothing wrong with it, it's just not necessary, so while you're free to do it, please don't admonish me for choosing not to. Often it's not really even a 'choice'. I don't 'choose' not to wear a poppy any more than I choose not to carry a Mars Bar* in my pocket at any given time. I just don't do it, it's not a contentious thing. I haven't actively refused to do it. And to be honest, unless someone was being a dick about it, I'd probably wear one in certain company to keep people happy.On a similar note, how do people feel about the notion of a 'minute's silence' for something? Think about that properly. What does it really mean? Personally I'd love it if people had a minute of 'swearing terribly' when I die. To me it's another absurd tradition which I will play along with, but seems completely meaningless and redundant.* MARS BAR? Has anyone heard of this? Mars… bar?

  13. The real reason that charities like the Royal British Legion want us to wear badges, labels or poppies is to ensure that they're not forgotten.Outwardly it says nothing more than I've put a pound or two in a collecting tin somewhere, and here's the proof. But of course, by my wearing a poppy, it encourages others – perhaps at a very subtle level – to also give. I suspect some wouldn't give if there wasn't some kind of implied pressure to confirm and wear the symbol and in the long term the charities do better. Personally I too hate all the badges and insistance that I participate with certain charities at certain times. It's not because I don't like or believe in those charities – I usually do (it's a rare charity that you can really take a dislike to). But I wonder why some charities get special treatment while others don't. AIDs, breast cancer, Children in Need or Comic Relief rather than Amnesty, Alzheimers or prostate cancer?If you shop at Waitrose, they have a charity scheme whereby you're given a green token to put in a charity box of your choice from three offered on the way out. You can see how the vote is going since the boxes are perspex. Money is then dispensed to charities in accordance with the popular vote. But that inevitably means that the air ambulance charity does better than the mental health charity. I invariably pop my token in whichever box is emptiest. All that said, I do wear a poppy. As much as anything it does somehow give me an opportunity to think more about our war dead over the last century. Another five soldiers today. Thousands more injured.I certainly don't have a problem with others choosing not to wear one. I totally understand. My wearing a poppy is actually at odds with what I do the rest of the time. But don't get me started on "chuggers"…

  14. Well Said Andrew,Watching the Formula 1 GP at the weekend I noticed that Jake Hunphries and David Coulthard wore the poppy while Eddie Jordan did not. As previously mentioned, the poppy is contentious in Ireland. While many Irishmen of all religions fought and died in the First (and second) world war in the British forces, those same forces occupied Ireland and were seen as an oppressive force. Complicated and difficult to represent with a symbol or logo.

  15. Hi Andrew.I was one of the people you blocked as a follower yesterday.I think more than anything we've seen the limitations of trying to discuss such a complex issue in 140 characters or less. Thankfully you do read emails sent to you and after a brief exchange where we were both able to clarify our position and apologise to each other for any misunderstanding, you have now unblocked me.I'm responding to your last email here because I think people should know how gracious you were in taking the time to listen to my views and because I do think this is a debate that ought to be public.Anyone who berates someone for not wearing a poppy, who insults someone for not wearing a poppy or demands people wear the poppy is being more disrespectful to the war dead by not honouring the freedom they fought and died for, at least that's how I feel on the issue.I do wear a poppy but here in Belfast that can be contentious for obvious reasons, not least of which is the simple fact that our troops have not always covered themselves in glory.I want to remember the sacrifices made but I'm also acutely aware that my neighbours who come from the Irish republican tradition have seen their loved ones murdered by British troops on many occasions.So I wear it but I wear it for as little time as possible, and I always make myself available to explain why I wear it, if challenged.I think part of the problem is that we have allowed the poppy to become a symbol of the right, and even the far right, in much the same way the Union Jack has. Do we surrender these symbols to the likes of the BNP, or do we take them back?Anyway, that's my view on the matter. Peace.

  16. I respect almost anyone positioning themselves against the majority. Badge wearing for causes and beliefs has for me become a confusing distraction and in danger of diminishing historically important or genuinely world effecting causes. I often take stands which deem on the surface to be unpopular and to some people, offensive. Even though I've been touched by cancer I won't wear the badge. That's my personal choice and privacy. I'll donate and so on but won't wear the badge. To me all these badges and causes are the dream of some marketing department. Poppies yes -as per Andrew's post . I've yet to be convinced of the significance of a ribbon and lapel badge. Maybe time will tell.As an aside, do the Christian ichthys bumpr sticker on cars count as badges? Originally I thought it was because it was an optional extra to have your new car blessed in some way. Or is to be used in conjunction with a sticker saying "Jesus on board"?

  17. I am intrigued by Stewart who says that the poppy has become a symbol of the right – how so and how has this been evaluated? I consider myself an average bloke (what ever that is) – I am well read and take interest in current affairs and have not seen this mentioned. I appreciate that the red tops have a more jingoistic approach to things and have always been keen supporters of the Poppy but to say that the poppy has become a symbol of the right I feel is incorrect. An IED cares not for your political stand point

  18. As it happens, Ashley, I don't believe the poppy has been hijacked by the right, or indeed hijacked by anyone (except perhaps for politicians trying to score compassion points with the populace). Sure, Nick Griffin wears one, but he would, wouldn't he? You may as well say that wearing a suit or having a side parting has been hijacked by the right.To be pro-war does not necessarily denote right wing. There are plenty of liberals who supported the invasion of Iraq. War cuts across all political colours, as you say, Ashley. The poppy has been hijacked by someone called Lisa who would post a message on here calling me "a disgrace" (which I didn't publish as it came at the end of an entry about our podcast and would have looked daft) and then not come back to join the debate.I welcome her. And still hope for a detraction of that insult.

  19. Lisa, I object to being called a sycophant. I am not attempting to win favour by flattering Andrew or indeed anyone else. His views simply happen to coincide with mine. Wouldn't it be a shame if your attitude towards this subject resulted in fewer people wearing the poppy rather than more?

  20. Good, you have returned. And guess what, you've insulted me again!Lisa, I don't wish to "change your mind" on the poppy issue, or any issue; I was merely hoping to state my case at length and hoped that taking the time to do so might cause you reconsider you original insult. Calling someone a "disgrace" is very strong.As for the "sychophants" remark: you've also insulted a lot of people who regularly comment on this blog, too – all of whom have minds of their own. What do you hope to gain by this? (I have had plenty of people disagreeing with me on Twitter and in all cases, by having an individual dialogue, we have agreed to disagree without resorting to insults.)If you could please explain why my personal opinion has angered you so much, I'd appreciate it. (I worry that it's something personal that I can't possibly know about or legislate for. Do you normally read my blog?) But if you continue to insult me, or anyone else, I won't publish your comments. Perhaps you would prefer to email me privately via the Contact Me address above, and that way, we don't have to do this in public? I am only stating my viewpoint; I don't actually wish to anger anybody, as clearly indicated by the careful way I have worded this blog entry. I am for peace.

  21. Perhaps become is too strong a word when I mean it could become a symbol of the right. I can only speak from my own experience which is one of the majority of people I see defending, or demanding the Poppy being worn are most definitely to the right of the political spectrum.There is one current case where a charity for ex servicemen accepted money from the BNP because they said no one else would give them anything.This goes further than Griffin just happening to wear the poppy the way he wears a suit, it is a deliberate and concerted effort to claim the symbol.This is not an argument that we must wear a poppy, else they'll steal it. It's an argument that we ought to have open debates around this issue, in order to clarify why it doesn't belong to the likes of the BNP who seek to appropriate it.

  22. It looks like Lisa isn't interested in an actual exchange of ideas, possibly because she doesn't have any, but at least she has provoked an interesting discussion for the rest of us.

  23. Another thoughtful piece, Andrew. I am not on Twitter so wasn't aware things had got so feverish.I've been really interested in the ebb and flow of the poppy, and what it has appeared to symbolise at different times. In the Eighties, when I was much more politically active than I am now, wearing the red poppy was completely frowned on if you were a liberal leftie – it was seen as a very conservative symbol, with nostalgic links to empire and colonialism, rather than a gesture of commemorative compassion and respect. We felt back then that the memory of the war dead had been appropriated by the conservative establishment, and that the red poppy was therefore just another symbol of right-wing (as in Tory, not BNP/NF!) propaganda. I, and many of my friends, were active in CND, and if you wanted to commemorate the war dead, you wore one of their white poppies. If we'd been able to add a tag to them, stating for good measure that we we largely wished to exclude what we saw as the overprivileged blood-lusting officer class from our commemoration, we'd have done so. We were terrible little prigs. Post Cold War, post Thatcher, and with the re-ignition of actual armed conflict in Europe (and the active involvement of UK troops in countries other than Ireland), poppy wearing seems to have much broader support than twenty years ago. Far more of my softy leftie mates will do so now, than ever. Friends' teenage kids wear them because they've seen programmes about the War Poets or 'The Nazis:A Warning From History'. I always give money to the collections, but don't always take a poppy, as like you I don't feel the need to make a public statement about which charities I support (I'm more likely to take a tiny sticker for a little obscure charity, just to publicise its existence.). As several people have already said, this is the freedom of expression – or non-expression – that was fought for, certainly in the last World War. Strong-arming or shaming people into wearing any symbol renders that symbol meaningless.

  24. A lovely read. Thank you Andrew. You make an obvious point on all our behalf. One that seems to need reiterating all to often. Freedom. I for one appreciate you making it.I live in a rural area and every now and then an elderly gentleman knocks on my door with a box of poppies. When my Father answers, they will usually have a chat about the surrounding area, how it used to be and how the local farmers went about their day etc. When my Mother answers to him, they will talk about how my Grandfather died (was gassed) and yet their family recieved no help from the service at all. As you said, war is a grey area so points are made with no bitterness. On both occasions we will buy a few of the little red paper bages to keep in the kitchen as a gentle reminder of lives sacrificed (both by brave individuals and by a powerful state).On a lighter note, a friend is lending me Battle-Star Galactica DVDs, so your recent posts on the show will soon mean something to me!Peace and Love.

  25. My view on poppy weering is straight forward. Service men/women and bereaved families (myself included)appreciate the show of support. If the simple act of wearing a poppy shows we are thinking of them, surely that alone is enough reason to do it? It seems such a shame Andrew that your 'complex' views make this impossible.If 'disgrace' is too strong a term I apologise. It was written in anger and fraustration. I've no vendetta against you Andrew. On the contrary, in some of your writings you appear a reasonable fellow.

  26. my concern is that charities of various names seem to be taking on the majority of the burden for the pastoral care of ex service personnel. The legion being a case in point as its funding gap is getting larger year by year.I agree however that you don't need to wear a poppy weather you have made a donation or not. A central plank of our freedoms that were fought over was the freedom to express yourself as you so wished.

  27. ditto most ppls sentiments about this being nicley put.Here's the Seinfeld episode where Kramer gets into the issue of having to wear an AIDS ribbonhttp://www.seinfeldscripts.com/TheSponge.html

  28. Hi Andrew,we have spoken on Twitter but it is nice to use more than 140 characters in a conversation once in a while. I have read your blog and recognise myself as the passionate fellow who "ordered you to wear one" and "to do the decent thing".I will here attempt to clarify my thought process but it is in no way an attempt to persuade or cajole someone into changing their mind (as if…I'm married!). As far as I am aware you opened the Poppy debate on Twitter by saying something akin to you "hope" people "assume" you support the Armed Forces as you dont feel the need to advertise your support with a plastic flower.Fair enough, thats your position and, obviously, it is absolutely fine. What I was trying, rather clumsily, to get across was that by "hoping" that others "assume" you are still supporting but are not willing to publicly display that support in this particular way ie-by wearing a poppy. I am, therefore, presuming that you would rather people thought you supported the Armed Forces than thought you didnt, but in my defence i am only drawing that conclusion from your "tweet"?By wearing a poppy would you only remove the doubt as to whether you supported the cause or not? Again, it is entirely your call, your right, your decision but if you "hope" that your support is assumed why not help by making your position clear whn you hope your support is perceived?I fully understand the push against what society now believes is the only acceptable way to demonstate such support but I feel there is a much bigger cause here. How will future generations look to mark this history? It is a symbolic gesture–as you point out in your blog the use of the poppy is poignant-it is surely different to someone sporting a yellow band around their wrists and should be treated as different. Is it not a mark of respect? Is it not the right, maybe even "decent thing to do" for one weekend out of fifty two? To remind and to remember, to educate the younger generations that have no direct link to the World Wars and only recent media takes on the newer ones? Does it not show an unity of society, a respect of what some people gave , and are still giving today, so that we may live as we please? I feel if more right minded people decide not to sport a poppy, for whatever reason then the tradition will die out. It will become less and less each year. As a result less money will be raised and we already have a terrible reputation for aftercare for ex-soldiers and bereaved families. If the remembering aspect goes because there is no physical symbolic reminder what will disappear next? The eventual, natural progression will be to stop marking the day and I cant see how this country will benefit from that.My daughter, a few years ago, asked why I was wearing a flower. I told her why in a fairly uncomplicated way (hard to believe after reading the rest of this, right?) and am proud that this year, with absolutely no prompting from me or school, she has given up two Saturdays and three evenings to stand in a supermarket doorway selling poppys to people who want them. I hope her kids have the chance to do the same, if they want to, in fifteen years time.Lastly, if it is important to the Chelsea Pensioners and to the majority of all other ex-servicemen and woman to wear a poppy then that is good enough a reason for me. If I can show them that I support then and their fallen colleagues-even if it is in a way that society has become to demand/expect, then I will continue to do so. It isn't about the likes of Blair and Brown-or it shouldn't be, as they have to deal with themselves and their maker.It is poignat, cheap, symbolic, effortless and respectful and that is why I do it.Cheers,Kieron

  29. Apology accepted, Lisa, and thank you for withdrawing the "disgrace" remark. And I hope, having read my blog entry above you will know that I support the same servicemen and women, and bereaved families (which I now learn includes you), but by simply donating money to the British Legion and – you have to admit this – at least thinking hard about the whole issue without swallowing it whole. I would say the majority of people I saw on the way home tonight weren't wearing a poppy. My guess is that, if asked, they would also wish nothing but healing upon bereaved families and the families of those injured in war. The poppy is not the only way of having respect and compassion for the dead, bereaved and injured. Of all the three messages you've posted, this is the only one that seems to have been written in a calm and reasoned state of mind – and contained no personal insult. Clearly, if you have suffered bereavement you have every right to be angry and frustrated. But please direct that anger at those who send our soldiers to war while sitting smugly at home wearing their poppies with "pride", not at someone like me, who at least has the courage to share his feelings on the issue, and explain them fully. (And to continue the debate when I could easily have withdrawn and kept quiet. Nobody forces me to have a blog.)I marched against the invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001 and the invasion of Iraq in February 2003 and lobbied my MP and the Prime Minister on the subject. I was fobbed off and ignored by our government, who voted for an aggressive, illegal war based on false evidence. I remain angry and frustrated about that fact, six years later. Such acts of wanton, needless aggression, based on hidden agendas, are precisely what have made the poppy a contentious symbol, where once it was benign. I suspect we have more in common than you thought, Lisa. We should not let a flower get between us.

  30. "I marched against the invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001 and the invasion of Iraq in February 2003 and lobbied my MP and the Prime Minister on the subject. I was fobbed off and ignored by our government, who voted for an aggressive, illegal war based on false evidence. I remain angry and frustrated about that fact, six years later." "Such acts of wanton, needless aggression, based on hidden agendas, are precisely what have made the poppy a contentious symbol, where once it was benign."Andrew,although I totally agree with the first of the above two paragraphs I really do have take issue with you on the second.The poppy hasn't, I hope, become a contentious symbol. Maybe some of the people that wear it are contentious but the poppy retains its core value. The poppy was never meant to symbolise war, or politicians or any faction of society. It was, and remains, a symbol of unity of the common man. The fact that individuals and families sacrificed for the greater good. It does not only symbolise those that sacrificed in wars we approve or agree with. People put their country before themselves, paying with their lives and the acknowledgement of that is why I wear a poppy with pride. Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and anyone else does not have the power nor the opportunity to corrupt what the poppy represents. The poppy should stand stronger against these men, not wilt because of them.Kieron

  31. I understand your reasons for not wearing a poppy even though I disagree with them. What I don't understand is why some on the left will take such a principled stand over this particular issue but find nothing controversial about wearing, say, a badge commemorating a mass murderer like Chairman Mao.

  32. I'm sorry to post again Andrew, butting in on a sensitinve debate. But the above 2nd comment by yourself is the most thoughtful & intelligent peice of writing I've read anywhere in months.Love to all.

  33. I'm planning a social networking site called Cough. You're limited to 8 characters. It's all most people need. Just cut straight to the abuse. Which kind of brings me to…I haven't worn a poppy since primary school, largely because of the treatment handed out to Michael Foot for the "donkey jacket" incident. It is indeed a complex issue but that brought home to me everything that is wrong with this tokenistic approach to remembrance.Do we remember our dead? I'm sure the bereaved families do. They can't help but. But do "we"? I think we build monuments to the unknown soldier, our glorious dead, and we construct ceremonies and rituals and gestures around these monuments quite simply because we know that we don't remember them. We don't honour their memories, we don't look after their families, we don't look after their comrades who weren't killed, and we don't learn lessons they died teaching us. But we wear badges that say, "I remember." And we lay flowers at monuments. And we stand in silence. In appropriate dress. And we remember for a few seconds. Perhaps because that's easier.Don't get me wrong. I'm not claiming that I really do remember, or that I care any more than those who wear a poppy. The reverse is true. I can't wear a poppy because I know that I don't remember. Not really.I believe in freedom. I'm glad that we have the freedom that we do. And I know that some of that freedom was retained because we didn't lose certain wars, and millions of people died in those wars. And I can't conceive what those people went through.But with freedom comes responsibility. And I don't think those people died fighting for a society where we feel free to be as selfish, self-centred, ignorant, hateful, infantile and greedy as we want to be. And if the least that I can do to show that I have not forgotten them is to wear a plastic poppy, then I think that's as good a reason as any not to do it.

  34. I am actually better informed on the subject than many who wear a poppy.That's a rather large assumption to make isn't it? Whilst you're perfectly ok to have your opinion I think that line almost makes you a sneering elitist. Which I'm sure you don't want to come across as.

  35. Forgive the erroneous signal of elitism, Ben. Certainly not intended. The remark (which I have excised from the text for fear of causing offence although it remains in your comment) was written slightly on the defensive. I felt that I was being hounded for not understanding or empathising with those that fight our wars. I don't think I am clever for reading some books, but my feelings about war are not solely governed by an emotional kneejerk pacifist response. I am interested in the nature and conflict of armed conflict in a political and historical sense – that's all I was trying to say. I take a keen interest in the subject, and as such, feel well informed on the nature of mechanised combat. I don't just get my information from news stories and war movies.You have to remember I have been shouted down and prodded over my stance on poppy-wearing the last couple of days and I was keen to state my position. I certainly didn't wish to add myself to some imaginary "elite" – I was just trying to claw back a bit of respect from those who had poked me in the chest as an airy-fairy liberal with not a clue what goes on in the field of human conflict. Does that make sense?Oh, and DB, I have never worn a badge with Chairman Mao on it as I have never been much into wearing any allegiances on my lapel. (I wore a Vote Labour badge when I was in the Labour party, briefly, in the early 90s.) I can't answer for others "on the left" – they must answer for themselves. And Kieron, I agree with your sentiment about the poppy. What I meant about it entering a more "contentious" phase this century as a symbol is the very nature of the two conflicts our soldiers are currently fighting. It would have been difficult to argue with our reasons for fighting Hitler – either ideologically, or simply because he was threatening to invade us and was indeed bombing us – but Saddam Hussein posed no threat and was invaded illegally and under false pretenses. This makes public displays of support more complicated, that's all. You say, with passion, "The poppy should stand stronger against these men, not wilt because of them." Very true. I don't think it is wilting, though. The sight of Tony Blair in a poppy, however, does make me feel nauseous.

  36. "I have never worn a badge with Chairman Mao on it" – I didn't say you had, but you did go out of your way to declare your support for Phill Jupitus when he wore his. I just find it little odd that a Mao badge gets the "You go girl!" treatment whereas the wearing of a poppy induces such hand-wringing unease.

  37. I defend Phill's right to wear a Mao badge in the same way that I defend your right to wear a poppy – or indeed another person's right to wear a Myra Hindley badge or a Tony Blair badge. Some are offended by the word "fuck" on a t-shirt.

  38. To those posters demanding (and yes, that's what you're doing) that we all wear poppies, can I demand in return that you all wear a ribbon in support of cancer charities? After all, I've known more than a few cancer sufferers in my time but no one who has died or been injured in a war apart from a great uncle who I may never have met even if he'd survived WWII.Obviously I'm being sarcastic. I assume that all reasonable people would a) respect the sacrifices of our troops, even if they don't support the wars, and b) feel sympathy for cancer sufferers. As a result I don't think anyone in a free society should be harangued into wearing their heart on their sleeve. It's called being an adult.Toby

  39. I think we should have our faces tattoed with the emblem of every charity/cause/opinion we care about. Only then will we truly be showing the proper respect. I mean, people are DYING, and we won't even get our faces tattoed? Makes me sick.To DB: I don't speak for them either, but I think it's fair to assume that most people "on the left" would find it pretty ridiculous to wear a Mao badge, whilst at the same time, like Andrew, defending someone's right to do it. You have the right to wear a Swastika on your lapel if you so desire. i.e. You have the right to be a dick. That's one part of a (sort of) democratic society we just have to live with. I think I should make it clear at this point that I'm not calling you a dick 🙂

  40. I agree that any one has the right to be a dick by wearing a Mao or Hitler badge, but there's a difference between defending a person's right to wear something and actively encouraging it with "good for you, that'll show 'em" type declarations.

  41. You're forgetting the context of the Jupitus/Mao row, DM: he was picked up for wearing the badge by a spurious blog called Biased BBC – linked to here – which is why I leaped to his defence. I can't stand all this BBC-bashing, and the blog's reasoning for "exposing" him seems to be based on an underlying hatred of the BBC and "lefties". Also, some of the comments underneath range from purple-faced ("I look forward to the day that the BBC's cosy hegemony is shattered and these cretins are forced to stand on their own two feet") to downright rude ("He's some fat, ugly prick who regularly appears on BBC dross like QI and – what was that godawful show called again? oh yeah – Never Mind the Buzzcocks. He's one of their 'edgy' comedians (i.e. he makes jokes about Thatcher and Bush and toffs and whatnot)." This would make anyone leap to his defence, wouldn't it?

  42. DB: "I agree that any one has the right to be a dick by wearing a Mao or Hitler badge, but there's a difference between defending a person's right to wear something and actively encouraging it with "good for you, that'll show 'em" type declarations."Err….is that what happened then?By the way, I've got these lovely straw men for sale if you're interested.Toby

  43. Andrew,this is where I opt out of the discussion.I feel I have made the points I wanted to, as well as further understanding yours.I appreciate that you have taken the time (and effort) to respond on the subject and certainly feel we were able to expand our original points once the 140 character limitation of Twitter was left behind.I understand the points you have discussed and although I may not agree it is obvious you have the freedom of choice and sound reasoning to your decision. As long as we are all aware of how we retain such freedoms the wearing/not wearing of a poppy no longer needs to be our discussion.I retain all of my respect for you and your entertaining, thought provoking words but I really cannot continue to read the trite words that some contributors are posting on the subject. Whether a poppy is worn or not worn there should, in my opinion, be a degree of respect of the reason why some wear a poppy. I feel this respect is being lost in the muddy waters of comparison and point scoring. I feel relatively strongly on this subject because it is different–as a cause it is unique and as such, by definition, not comparable.Thanks again for your thoughts and the chance to respond. See you on Twitter soon!regards,Kieron

  44. Andrew, on witnessing the Tweeting going on, I found myself wishing that you, upon being "ordered" around and labelled a "disgrace", had simply said "Just fuck off"It would be completely unconstructive, rude, and totally unlike you but it would have given me so much satisfaction. I suspect the same applies to many others here. I suppose that's more Richard's style though!

  45. On the podcast, Darren, maybe. But he is very polite on Twitter when people cast insults or aspersions – also on his own Guestbook forum. It's by far the most effective response. And, of course, on Twitter, if it persists, to block the user with the click of a mouse – after all, who would follow somebody they didn't like?

  46. Well said. I think we should have a remembrance holiday like ANZAC day instead. Remembrance Sunday, with its stiff formaility, doesn't always feel inclusive. And I'll maybe wear a poppy on Sunday. Why do we have to wear one for a whole week or fortnight? It's not easy to transfer between each days outfit.

  47. Whether a poppy is worn or not worn there should, in my opinion, be a degree of respect of the reason why some wear a poppy.I disagree. It is imperative that we respect people's right to hold different views and make different choices, there is no imperative to respect those choices, whatever they may be.I feel this is an important distinction to make, as mentioned earlier, many of my Irish republican neighbours hold a vastly different view to the British Forces than I do, there's no reason why they ought to respect my views, only that they respect my right to hold them.Similarily, some British people from a Muslim background are of the opinion that the UK is engaged in a war of aggression against their fellow Muslims and have protested during homecoming parades. I don't respect that opinion, even if I think it's important they be free to express it.Respect ought to be earned, no one has it as a right, at least not in any properly democratic and free society.

  48. Kieron: "Whether a poppy is worn or not worn there should, in my opinion, be a degree of respect of the reason why some wear a poppy."See, I think this is backwards.The discussion started because Andrew said that although he respected what the poppy stood for he didn't want to wear one himself. Everyone on that side of the argument has said that they respect what the poppy stands for, although they have reservations about some of the connotations.There was never a point when people who wanted to wear poppies were told they shouldn't or when poppies themselves were criticised.Why is it that in these "state of the country today" discussions, the people on the conservative side of the argument always end up trying to act like the victims? Us liberals aren't trying to tell you what to do, we're just asking you to stop telling us what to do.This is not meant to be a personal attach on Kieron – apart from being a bit self-righteous (like all of my posts, I'll admit) he seems fairly reasonable. But it was clearly the poppy enforcers who were the antagonists in this situation, don't try to act hurt now.Tobyp.s. For the record I've got a poppy on my coat. It's a personal choice and I wouldn't expect anyone else to wear one if they didn't want to.

  49. I think I sort of agree with all of Andrew's reasons for not wearing a poppy, or at least for most people these reasons would be sensible. However…The problem is, Andrew is, if not a celebrity, then certainly 'in the public eye'. If the average man on the street chooses not to wear a poppy, no-one is going to assume amything about that person, because the person will not be expecting anyone to notice or care what they do.Someone in the public eye knows that people are watching and interpreting what they do, and by choosing not to wear a poppy, people will natuarally assume that they are trying to make a point. Since Andrew is clearly aware of this, then he probably is trying to make a point. I am guessing that his point is: 'that he shouldn't be forced to do something he doesn't choose to do voluntarily just because he is in the public eye'. Some people will be offended, assuming that the point he is trying to make is something very different.So the question is, if Andrew is trying to make a point, and even if it is a perfectly valid point, is it a point worth making? Wouldn't it be easier to just wear a poppy? No-one gets offended. Some people will misinterpret the gesture of wearing a poppy, but there will be misinterpretation with or without poppy. With-poppy misinterpretation just comes without added risk of offence. Isn't that better?Just a (slightly rambling) thought.

  50. Kieron asked me why I would consider wearing a poppy if asked to do so when appearing on the BBC. I suggested in my original blog entry that I probably would. I have removed that line as Chris Treece made it clear (he works for the BBC) that the policy for presenters and guests is to wear one, but nobody is forced to do so. Now I come to think about it, I was on News 24 last year at Poppy time and nobody asked me to wear one. So, as it happens, the question is just a hypothetical one.As I think I have covered all bases with my endless explanations and explorations about my feelings towards compulsory poppy wearing (and I don't buy your point, Stephen, that I have some sort of responsibility as a minor public figure, to set some kind of example), I will defend my position one last time:Had it actually been BBC policy that all guests wore a poppy and they'd asked me to wear one last year on News 24, I'm sure I would have been sensible enough to wear one. After all, I am not boycotting them, as I thought I'd made perfectly clear, simply choosing not to wear one when walking down the street in order to confirm my support or to advertise that I have donated money to a charity. It's not a cause I'm willing to lay down my life for, because it isn't a cause: I merely reject the emotional blackmail that goes with poppy wearing. I certainly resent the implication that hypothetically going along with a hypothetical company policy while working for the company in question in some way makes me a money-grabbing hypocrite. I bought a cake in a Starbucks the other week, despite my long-held boycott of Starbucks. And I shared it with the group. (The confession, not the cake.)I am just a human being trying to make my way in the world and allow others to get on with making their way.

  51. Dave's comment above made me think of Jacques Brel's song "La statue" which I saw on youtube yesterday. God, it's brilliant.I've given this issue some thought now and I'm ashamed to say I don't really know what the poppy is for. The guide is the motto "Wear your poppy with pride" I suppose, and when I was at primary school the idea of feeling proud of myself was something I wanted a go at. Also I had a grandparent then so I thought I was showing I loved him. But now I haven't worn one for years. I don't exactly know what I'm supposed to be proud of; is it all British Armed Forces veterans, or am I proud that I'm helping look after injured and bereaved people. I think it's the first one, in which case, no thanks but I'll make a donation.

  52. Well said.My father never wore a poppy when he was alive as I believe at the time (my memory may be hazy and my history may not be accurate) that the money from poppies went to a foundation named after Earl Haig. My father was of the opinion that he would not give money to this foundation as it was hypocritical and rather offensive that a fund to support servicemen and women was named in memory of the man who made the idiotic decision to send the soldiers over the top to their deaths as cannon fodder. He did donate to other service/remembrance related charities and foundations.

  53. Yes The Edge's Hat, that is correct and well remembered. The words on the black centre of the poppy used to be 'Haig Fund', rather than 'Poppy Appeal'.Having been reminded, I now remember asking my grandad who or what 'Haig' was and he said, in short order, 'he was a general, First World War'. Not full of praise for the WW1 generation of generals then; the same view shared, I think, by many of those called up for WW2 who must have wondered if they were in for the same treatment as their WW1 forbears.

  54. I tend to agree with Big Dave who expressed concern that the Royal British Legion is expected to cover the funding gap between the current meagre state provision for injured ex-soldiers and what the state should actually be providing. I don't feel that this should be the Legion's responsibility as it is the state that is ultimately responsible for any injuries incurred in the line of duty and whilst I do "remember" I feel it would be hypocritical to contribute and wear a poppy.

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