By Jason Menard
I wear a red poppy because at this time of year the symbol is not about me. It’s about those who have served and, in some cases, died fighting for this country.
The red poppy has become increasingly politicized over the years. There are those who choose to wear a white poppy to show their opposition to any armed conflict. The white poppy is used as an alternative emblem to show one’s preference for peace.
I respect that. And I share those ideals and beliefs, as I am staunchly anti-gun and see little need for war.
But I will always wear the red poppy.
I wear the red poppy because this time of year should be about them. Not me. I wear the red poppy because Remembrance Day should not be a time of protest and division, but it is a time to honour those who have fought for our flag.
There are those who say these wars were fought under false pretenses. There are those who will say that these soldiers were drawn to the theatre of war with propaganda and lies. There are those who look back at our history and question the need for so many senseless deaths.
And they are right. But, to me, there’s a time and a place to make this point. For me, that time is not during this period where we remember the sacrifices our soldiers and their families made on our behalf.
Modern analysis of motivations or rationalizations are secondary. The why, in this case, is not as important as the what — what these soldiers did, choosing to serve.
The fact of the matter is that we have the right to protest in this country. Even on Remembrance Day. We can burn flags, denounce our government, and shout in chorus. These are the very rights and freedoms that our veterans fought to protect.
So I don’t begrudge anyone choosing to protest in that way. It’s your choice. But I also believe that those rights we cherish also come with a responsibility to use them wisely. For me, wearing a white poppy during this time shows disrespect to the soldiers whom should be the focus of these next few days.
It’s easy to look back at history and see where people were misled, or what went wrong. But it’s too facile. It’s not honest and it’s not fair.
In many cases, our military men and women were asked to make a life-altering decision when they were barely adults. They didn’t have the benefit of decades of hindsight and access to historical analysis. They were presented with radio reports and newsreels that presented a world on the brink. Their way of life — and the lives of their future generations — were being threatened by an unknown enemy.
And they chose to defend our way of life.
You can say, decades later, that they were duped by propaganda. We can look back at soldiers fighting under the Kaiser or under the Fuhrer and see that they were likely scared, misinformed youth just like our soldiers. You can sit back and say these wars should never have happened in the first place.
You’d be right.
But remember this: the red poppy isn’t about you.
It’s about those soldiers — both living and dead — who made the best decision they could, without our benefits. It’s about people who would rather have had the luxury of being pacifists, but took up arms to defend their ideals. It’s about acknowledging the efforts and sacrifices that those soldiers made.
You can wear a white poppy. You have that right. And I’d be happy to join you pretty much any other time of the year. But as we lead up to Remembrance Day, I’ll proudly bear a red poppy on my left lapel.
I wear a red poppy not to glorify or support war. It does not mean that I condone violence. Wearing a red poppy does not mean that I’ve forgotten the innocent civilians who also perished as a result of war.
I wear a red poppy because wearing that poppy is not about me. It’s about them.
And they — the soldiers — are the ones who should be the focus on Remembrance Day.