My EU poppy gets a mention in this Spectator blog. I profoundly disagree with the author. War, and peace, are as political as it gets, and defending the EU as a peace project is not trivialising anything – quite the opposite. Hence my EU poppy. https://t.co/nuTOPks40L
— Chris Kendall 🇪🇺 (@ottocrat) November 12, 2017
This year, I made this little blue and yellow poppy and posted a photo of it on Twitter. I knew that this might prove controversial and also that some people might take offence. To them, I offer the following arguments:
Marking 11 November as Remembrance Day has a long international history. Many countries mark it. In Belgium, where I’ve lived for many years, it’s a public holiday. It does not ‘belong’ to the Royal British Legion nor to the UK, and I feel it has been appropriated in Britain by people who want to make it about the country’s current armed forces. That’s not what it is to me. To me, Remembrance Day is first and foremost about the awful horror, stupidity, and waste of the First World War. Then, by extension, it’s about the Second World War, and the way European civilisation turned in upon itself in fratricidal conflict. That’s what Remembrance Day is to me, and while I respect other people’s wish to make it about something else, something more than that, or something less than that, I reject their wish to impose their interpretation on me and everyone else. My understanding and experience of Remembrance Day is as valid as and arguably historically more valid than theirs.
Those who serve in the military are public servants who make great sacrifices for their fellow citizens. In the modern era, they are volunteers, so they have chosen this path knowing that it might entail great sacrifice. However you feel about the state’s use of arms to achieve its objectives, I think this choice by individuals is worthy of respect, and I do respect it. Respect that is forced isn’t really respect, though, is it? So-called “poppy fascism” (by which we mean pressure to conform in wearing a poppy) is, I think, fundamentally disrespectful. It’s disrespectful to people who serve in the armed forces because it poisons public debate around their service; it’s disrespectful to those who so pointlessly gave their lives in the First World War; it’s disrespectful to those who gave their lives in the Second World War to fight *actual* fascists, and defend our fundamental freedoms; and it’s disrespectful to all the other public servants who make sacrifices on a daily basis, even if those sacrifices are (thankfully) rarely mortal.
Given my personal views set out in the previous two paragraphs, it can hardly come as a surprise that my understanding of Remembrance Day is intimately bound up with my passionate belief in the European Union. To me, the EU flag is a far more potent symbol of Remembrance than a poppy. To me, Brexit is an offensive act of disrespect for the sacrifice of millions in past European wars. As soon as the idea occurred to me, I felt I had to make this EU poppy and show people that I had made it. This is the very opposite of trivialising Remembrance Day. Brexit trivialises Remembrance Day. And to the author of the Spectator piece who feels that talking about Brexit politicises Remembrance Day, I can only say that Remembrance Day is and always has been profoundly political, and his article only serves to prove that.
Is anyone doing EU flag poppies? That should be a thing. https://t.co/ACU4rNcSA8
— Chris Kendall 🇪🇺 (@ottocrat) October 26, 2017
So @SE25A got me thinking, why not just make my own? Half an hour later… pic.twitter.com/9TXZyBv4Ji
— Chris Kendall 🇪🇺 (@ottocrat) October 26, 2017
Still working on my crochet #EUpoppies – this one’s an improvement I think! pic.twitter.com/DF85oENpOh
— Chris Kendall 🇪🇺 (@ottocrat) October 28, 2017
In Ireland the red poppy has mixed connotations. I’m absolutely happy to remember the sacrifice of the military forces, but the British army did many unspeakable things in the time of Empire, not least in Ireland, which would be considered war crimes now.
Our Taoiseach Leo took a similar line to yours by wearing a green poppy, which was a good choice I feel, remembering the dead without glorifying the British Empire.
On a different vein I’m rather obsessed by Brexit at present and have a few analyses on Progressive pulse. I would love to know if you feel I am too pessimistic. The latest one is here
may also be of interest,
Thanks Sean! I’m sorry that I’ve only just seen and approved your comment, I’m afraid I don’t go back and check for new comments as often as perhaps I should! I look forward to reading the posts you’ve linked to.
I just stumbled across this googling for ideas for crochet in EU flag colours on this historic day. Absolutely love it – will have to make some!