8 Nov 2010

Bit of red paper on your shirt?

I won't lie, I'm a tad worried about this post I'm about to write. It's serious, controversial and could well be personal for some people. But I had a chat with my dad and we both agreed that I should do it, for a lot of people's sakes, but especially for Jon Snow's.

What's the first thing you think of when you think of Remembrance Day? Poppies? Yeah, me too. Why? Because that's the flower that grew after World War I? Maybe. More likely though because everyone (on TV) wears a poppy around this time. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that you shouldn't wear a poppy, but why have people suddenly thought it necessary to wear one? Why has Jon Snow been branded with a disrespectful title because he's not?

For the past week people have been offering poppies in the common room in exchange for a donation. I thought of getting one but whilst rummaging around in my bag for a spare 20p (er, hello, there were aeros in the venders and you know how I like my aeros) I pondered about why I exactly wanted one. My conclusion: Flowers look pretty, it will make me feel good, everyone else is wearing one. Not for the real reason, to remember those who bravely fought and risked their lives for us in war. I have a poppy on my Twitter avatar but I wouldn't have if I hadn't seen others 'wearing' it. For remembering, of course, but it looks nice too. Poppies should be personal, not a trend.

I've even seen people blinging up their poppies with sequins to make them glam.... Oh right, no complaints about that then? *facepalm* SURELY THAT'S WORSE THAN NOT WEARING ONE?!

Jon Snow won't wear a poppy until Remembrance Day and I don't have a problem with that. I squinted my eyes a smidge and got a bit fidgety when I found out but only because of the backlash that I knew it would cause. But I can guarantee to everyone who thinks he's a 'bad man' that he is one of the loveliest men I have ever met and, although yes he does stand his ground which could been seen as stubborn, would never ever want to hurt anyone's feelings. And I totally understand why he's done it! Every single person you see on TV at the moment is wearing a poppy, but there's no way in hell that it's on their own accord. No way. It's fixed on them just before they go on air so their image isn't put down. They're not necessarily wearing it to remember the brave, and to be honest in some cases they won't even know what the poppies are for. They're following the herd. "Don't be a sheep Louise, just cos your friends have iPhones doesn't mean you need one." 

Jon is in no way disrespectful. He's speaking out and saying that he shouldn't have to wear a poppy just because people tell him to. He will wear a poppy on Remembrance Day and pay his respects in his own way. Good on him! "But he's setting a bad example." No he's not. For a start, his concluding film The Art Of War from Channel 4's The Genius of British Art series was shown last night. A film which he is deeply proud of. 

Stripping the meaning away from the poppy, you're really wearing some red paper on you with some green plastic and if I was going to be really pernickety I could say that you're wasting trees. You don't need a poppy to remember. Grow your own poppies if you want one and just make the donation.

Lastly, there are some people who don't just remember the ones we've lost in war on one particular day or period of days. They remember all year round. They remember in their dreams. They don't have to remember because they are reminded every day that there's an empty place at the dinner table where a father, brother or son should be. They don't wear poppies all the time. Would you dare say that they are being impertinent? 

Disrespectful? Why did you really 'buy' your poppy?


  1. A well reasoned article Louise. It does make you stop and think about why you buy a poppy.

    I bought one weeks ago when they went on sale at work, and always do wear the poppies as soon as I can. It's not because I want to fit in, but I do genuinely feel that it reflects the respect that I have for our British Armed Forces, not just for those in WW1 and 2, but also for those now in Afghanistan.

    They deserve our utmost respect, and every year at this time I am proud to pay it.

  2. I haven't been able to find a poppy seller yet and it's making me more than a bit worried. It's fine if you don't want to wear one but I honestly believe that everyone should donate something, even if it is just a few pence. Wearing a poppy is important to me but that doesn't mean it's important to everyone else, too.


  3. Best comment on this bizarre media fuss that I have yet read.

    Commemoration is almost by definition a personal event.

    All power to the British Legion and Earl Haig Scotland for keeping the poppy still so "essential" but being able to ask "why" people actually wear them takes the insight of youth in a world after Harry Patch and the others.

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  5. couldn't have said it better myself!xxx

  6. This is absolutely right.

    Wearing a poppy doesn't necessarily mean you're remembering or paying respect. And not wearing one doesn't mean you're necessarily NOT remembering and paying respect.

    An ex-soldier who went on the TV in October was forced to wear a poppy by TV producers even though he and the rest of his regiment have an annual tradition to only wear a poppy from the 1st until the 11th of November. He didn't want to wear one as it was still October. Would the "poppy fascists" that Jon Snow talked about have said that this ex-soldier was being disrespectful?

    The whole thing has gone nuts. And now a single is being released of 2 minutes silence! The video of silence apparently features famous people (Andy Murray, David Tennant, Mark Ronson, Thom Yorke) captured in "private moments" of remembrance. Can't be that private with the video crew surrounding them and telling them what to do. This itself seems more disrespectful than anything else: celebs getting a small image boost.

    This blog post is correct.

  7. I tend to lose the physical poppies rather quickly - at least the twitter one stays stuck on!

  8. Good rational balanced post Louise, I think the whole wearing poppies thing has been hijacked by TV presenters and politicians, who start wearing them in October - wrong, wrong, wrong. aside from the donation to help service personnel, from all wars including Afghanistan and Iraq, surely the most important thing is the two minute silence on Sunday. I do not wear a poppy until the week of Remembrance Sunday and understand and agree with Jon's personal preference to wear one on that day only.

  9. Well written & completely right. I always feel pressurised to buy/wear a poppy when I actually would rather just watch the commemerative service on the telly and think about it then, rather than sticking something to my chest. I get so annoyed that people wear poppies in the media when clearly theyre told to... c'mon, you don't think The X Factor judges would do it of their own accord?!

  10. A thought provoking post. How you remember and show your respects is entirely personal.

    I always make a donation and take a poppy but rarely wear it... perhaps next year a donation will suffice.

    Thank you.

  11. Interesting perspective, Louise! I am not sure I agree with your point about herd mentality, though.

    For me, it is just an outward sign of collective remembrance, but I don't think badly of people who don't wish to wear one.

    My father is a former soldier, and he sells poppies etc. on behalf of the Royal British Legion. Maybe this makes it all more personal.

    The important thing is to donate. Perhaps more charitably, we could think that TV presenters wearing poppies is a reminder to do so rather than anything more sinister!

  12. While I do not think that not wearing a poppy is a sign of disrespect, I do feel that it is the Duty of TV News Presenters and others who are in the public eye to wear one, particularly at this time of year.

    This keeps the idea in the public "psyche' and is a reminder to us why these people went to war (and continue to do so) - for our freedom!

  13. It's not just Poppies unfortunately, it's Pink Ribbons, rubber wristbands a multitude of Charity 'symbols' and 'badges'. I believe the majority of people who wear a Poppy do so with pride and genuine thoughts for Soldiers currently in service and who have given life or limb for us in the past. That is always my thought when my money goes in the collection tin, "this cash will help a young person who has lost their legs or ..." I always get emotionally choked up seeing the elderly Veterans at the Cenotaph but my thoughts are always with the young people currently in service or recently so (The last thirty years)
    I too dislike the bling bling Poppies as seen on X-factor judges; I see you can buy those via ebay. Surely if someone spends £15.99 on glam Poppy this year they'll wear it every year and NOT make another donation. I have to agree with Jon Snow because I honestly believe that the Poppy has been devalued by being thrust upon us.

  14. You are a moron. People should wear poppies as a mark of respect. It's one act, once a year, that doesn't take much at all. Your comment " in some cases they won't even know what the poppies are for" is perhaps the most ridiculous statement I have ever heard. I stumbled upon your blog by accident, and I certainly won't be returning to read it again.

  15. Ignore the last comment - you are not a moron! Your article is good and I believe in everyone making a donation, whether you choose to wear the poppy on your chest or your car or just leave it on the side in your house is an individual thing. Maybe some do glamorize it but as long as everyone remembers our losses, old and and new, all is well.

  16. This is a very well written and thought provoking post. I wear my poppy to honour all our brave forces, in particular my great grandfather and grandfather who served in World War I and II respectively.