I have never been a regular wearer of Remembrance Day poppies, for no more reason that ignorance and sloth.
Archdeacon John Clarke wrote a moving argument for the poppy in a blog post last week; in part:
The red poppy was not chosen as a symbol of remembrance because of its beauty. It’s because it grew around the graves of soldiers killed in Europe during the world wars. The deep red colour of the poppy reminds us of the blood that poured from the wounds of people killed in battle.
We place a symbol of the poppy on our lapels, near our hearts, to remind ourselves of one essential fact, that war is ugly. The poppy in no way falsely glorifies war. Its intention is the exact opposite, it reminds us of the utter and complete horror of the violence perpetrated on soldiers and civilians in war. The poppy is a stark symbol of the need for us and our political leaders to do all in their power to achieve an everlasting peace.
If I needed any more convincing, this passage from one of the Letters from the Great War was all it took:
Just a few lines to let you know I am alright. Hoping this will find you all the same. Well, I am still in Blighty and I am tired of writing and getting no answer. I have not had a letter from you since I had the registered one with the dollar in it. It seems to be the same with all us Canadians here, as there is about a hundred in the hospital here and they don’t get any letters from Canada. I would like to know where in hell they are going to. That is why I am having mine sent to a private address. I do stand more chance of getting them.
Well, I had a Medical Board two weeks ago and they marked me B I for B II, so I am expecting to be on the next draft and it is for Siberia, but you leave that to me. I do not want to go there. It is too far away and too cold. I would rather go to France. I think I can kick off it. Well, I am not fit for it anyhow, but I am getting better every day. I am getting stronger. It takes quite a little time to get over gas, but this is a dead place here. I do not like it.
It’s not so much the prospect of being sent to Siberia or France to fight that is chilling–although it certainly is–as much as the humanizing contrast between the everyday worries about postal service and what should be exceptional worries about the time needed to “get over the gas.”
As Archdeacon Clarke wrote in his post, war is ugly. We wear a poppy to remind ourselves of that. There’s one on my coat as I type.