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Sunday, 10 November 2013

The White Poppy?

Lest We Forget

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
      Between the crosses, row on row,
   That mark our place; and in the sky
   The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
   Loved and were loved, and now we lie
         In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
   The torch; be yours to hold it high.
   If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
         In Flanders fields.

- Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae

Let me start off by saying, this blog is going to anger some people.  I'm OK with that, but we do need to remember that whether or not you agree with me, please be respectful to everyone's beliefs, as there is no right answer.  There never is.  Life is a complicated thing, with many shades of right and wrong.  People on the other side of the issue believe what they do with just as much passion as you do.  The only difference is how you look at it, and the experience that shapes your beliefs.  

Recently, there's been quite a bit of controversy lately regarding the white poppy.  The Toronto Sun has been leading the charge against a group of students, primarily from the University of Ottawa, who will be wearing white poppies for Remembrance Day.  

The controversial pin.
They say that the white poppy is a symbol of peace, which is rather obvious according to this picture.  Also this direct quote in the Toronto Sun paints a picture as well.

"Young people don't want to celebrate war," Celyn Dufay of the University of Ottawa said. "We want to work for peace."

The direct implication of this quote seems to tell us that wearing a white poppy means you are for peace, while of course wearing a red poppy means you celebrate war.

Now I'm going to come right out and say it.  I don't trust newspapers, or most mainstream news sources.  They are in the business of selling newspapers, not reporting unbiased accounts of what's going on.  If you can print something that makes people angry, then their passions arise, and they talk about it.  The suns account is very one sided, painting Dufay as an insensitive jerk, who throws his symbol in the face of veterans and flips the bird to the people who laid down their lives.

Needless to say, their story has worked.  Google is full of stories of insensitive hippies, and their disrespect of the sacred.  On Facebook and Twitter there are a plethora of thoughts and comments full of rage and indignation that anyone might dare suggest that their time honoured traditions should support war.  There have been threats to punch those who might wear a white poppy.  (How's that for irony.)

What's more after reading the article I felt personally offended.  The red poppy is not a symbol which celebrates war, it is a symbol which reminds us to reflect upon those that gave their lives so that we may live in a free world.  Disrespect of those who made the ultimate sacrifice so people they would never meet could live their lives in peace is such a slap in the face, it hurts.  

Of course it's that freedom that was fought for that gives them the right to choose to wear a white poppy, so while I disagree with their message, I fully support their right to wear it.  In fact I agree with it so much, that I would defend that right should anyone say that they couldn't.  

Give peace a chance
But let's stop for a moment, and take a look at the other side of the issue.  What really is a white poppy.  It certainly wasn't invented by this U of Ottawa student as a way to attack veterans.  The white poppy has been a symbol for those that have wished for peace since 1933.  While there has always been a lot of us or them sentiment between the red and white poppy, the intent was never to be exclusive.  Where the red poppy was meant to honour the fallen hero's, the white poppy was created to symbolize the hope and wish that war wouldn't happen anymore.  

They were a sometimes worn separately, but the were also worn together as well.  Most people understand that war is sometimes a necessary evil, and the desire to be free of war is the goal of citizens and soldiers alike.  No soldier wants to be in a war, they do it because they feel it's their civic duty.  They do it because they want to protect freedom.  They do it because they feel they have to protect society from evil.  (Evil is also not a definite term, but a side of an individual belief.)

I guess the thing to remember is this...  Peace as an ideal that we would all love to achieve, unfortunately, as long as there are people in the world who have different ideals than you, and who are willing to fight to enforce those beliefs, than the need to defend ones self and country are necessary.  Peace can sometimes be negotiated, but sometimes, it needs to be fought for.  Sometimes it has to be sacrificed for.  Sometimes, there is no other choice.  When that time comes, you need people that not only are willing to fight, but willing to die.  These people don't want to die, and they don't want to kill.  They don't celebrate war.  They tolerate it.  They hate it.  They watch it take their friends, and their families, but yet they still give and give.  The ones who survive it will never be the same.  They deserve our respect, regardless if you respect war or not.  That's what the red poppy is all about, to remember those who sacrificed for you.

So if you see someone wearing a white poppy on remembrance day, it's OK.  They may be misguided, or they may not understand why you choose red.  Smile at them and offer them a red poppy, and remind them sometimes it takes tens of thousands of red poppies to achieve a white one.

Thanks grandpas, and all the others who fought to let me express these thoughts.