On Remembrance Day, I was listening to a local affairs phone-in programme on BBC local radio. A debate evolved about the wearing of the poppy, arising from a news report about Sunderland’s Northern Irish footballer James McLean wearing a shirt without an embroidered poppy in contrast to the rest of his teammates. The general mood was one of condemnation. During the debate, a gentleman caller related the fact that, whilst he was waiting on a railway platform this week, most of the people on the platform were not wearing poppies. His tone of disbelief implied that it was despicable of them to be in a public place without one. Another gentleman (ex forces) said he wears one “out of respect”. Where then, is the respect for the position of people who don’t wish to wear a poppy, for whatever personal reason they may have?
Personally, I don’t wear a poppy, even though my father and grandfather were servicemen (one in each war). This is for my own reasons, which I don’t wish to force upon others. I do, however, observe the silence, which is a personal thing, allowing the individual to honour privately, whomever they choose, without having to make a public declaration of blanket loyalty without question. I don’t try to influence people to this point of view, and I would be grateful if they, in turn, would stop treating people like me as if we were low life for not sharing their blind beliefs and loyalties. Anyone who prefers not to wear a poppy is considered anti-British and subjected to a form of poppy bullying by jingoistic poppy-wearing nationalists.
I have no religious beliefs, but it often amuses me that these little Englanders are often the same people who witter on about immigration and that it’s an attack on Britain’s “Christian” values. They should stop and think that the present xenophobic rush to defend these “Christian” values, by the press and the political parties competing to have the most austere and nationalistic policies, would see Jesus Christ not even allowed into this “Christian” country.