White Poppies

Matt Sinclair refers to Ekklesia's pacificism as 'ugly'. His argument is that wearing a red poppy is not political. The red poppy is sold to raise funds for the Royal British Legion. Their 'what we do' page includes this:
The Legion is the major voice for ex-Service people, campaigning on issues such as Gulf War Related Illnesses, War Pensions and Noise Induced Hearing Loss. We will continue to press for change as long as the needs of veterans and their dependants remain unrecognised.
This is an explicitly political act.

Moreover, the act of remembering is political. An act, endorsed by the state by the presence of the PM and the Queen, that seels to bind people together in a sense of national feeling cannot be described as anything other than political. The RBL's slogan has been 'wear your poppy with pride'; be proud to support the cause. Subtext: be proud to be British and therefore support those who are (we say) the embodiment of 'Britishness'.

Matt says:
If you think we were not right to fight the Great War then surely that suffering could be just as worthy of remembrance and empathy?
The best way of remembering those who needlessly died in World War One would be to make sure it never happens; the best way to help the war widows, war orphans and war wounded is to stop fighting wars.

There's a great line from M*A*S*H, by Colonel Potter, when making a toast to the last (save him) of a squad that fought together in WW1 died. He remembers his friends who died in the war to end all wars, and then the war after that. They are in Korea - the next war.

I always wear a red poppy because I think people should remember the war and those who are in need because of their experiences in wars should be helped. The RBL does a huge amount of work in that respect. I think, though, that the best way of helping people is to stop wasting their lives in war. As Dwight Eisenhower put it,
"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed"
The way to stop the tragedy of ex-service personnel, traumatised by their experiences, ending up on the streets, in prison, vulnerably housed, isolated and lonely is to stop training them to kill, putting them into hugely stressful positions where the normal morality of society is suspended and then throwing them back into society.

As mentioned above, Matt thinks that we should look after those who suffer because of war. That includes Iraq - we should have undertaken to rebuild everything that was and is being destroyed - ditto Afghanistan, the Balkans, Lebanon and so on. If nothing else it's good PR; it also improves people's lives and gives the impression that "we" (whoever we are) aren't all that evil.

Matt also implies that pacifism is sitting there and saying war is terrible. It is not; pacifism is not passive. Conscientious objectors had to make an active choice every day based on their beliefs. Moreover, pacifism should challenge the root causes of war; I'm sure you know the deal. I'm going to keep wearing a white poppy with a red one.



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