Thursday, 5 November 2015

Poppies, Patriotism and Perspective

November is an important month of the year for many people with an involvement or interest in the armed forces, as well as the wider community. The closest Sunday to the 11th November (Armistice Day) is Remembrance Sunday. This provides an opportunity for us to remember the dead and the survivors of past wars in Britain and around the world. Whilst there are many variations on a theme, this certainly holds for many European and Commonwealth countries. It is just a shame that the un-patriotic, pacifist, communist lick-spittle Jeremy Corbyn wants to ban this and urinate on the graves of the war dead.
               OK, well not really. But anyone reading the various “offerings” by right wing pressure groups, individuals on Facebook and even the mainstream media would believe this is the case. After all, it ties in with his plans to give the Falklands back to Argentina, move the Queen out of Buckingham Palace and turn it into an IRA memorial, all whilst turning over the Home Office to ISIS (if they are still called that this month) and Al-Qaeda to implement Sharia law on us. There will be a large proportion of not only the media and tories, but members of the public just watching for the leader of the opposition to get something wrong in the various ceremonies on Sunday.
               As a serving soldier I believe that both the act of remembrance and the funds raised by the Poppy Appeal are incredibly important. That is why it galls me so much that people of all hues are trying to politicise this. This includes the repulsive Britain First and EDL (who have been told NOT to use the Poppy symbol in their campaigns), the IRA sympathisers who attach wearing a poppy to actions in Northern Ireland and ignore everything else, and those people who measure how patriotic you are by how and where and when you wear your poppy / join in the national anthem / cheer on this weeks national sporting team as they channel headlong into disaster.
               Let’s have a look at what we call patriotism. Patriotism is generally accepted (other definitions exist) to be an emotional attachment to your country, based on aspects of shared culture, shared religion, shared political/historical events. So on that basis we can discount all of those who fought for us in wars who are non-christians – they don’t share our religion. Also, anyone who is the son or daughter of a migrant to this country – they haven’t been here long enough to share our culture. Certainly we should discount those French and Polish pilots who flew for us to save our country during the Battle of Britain – how can they have an “emotional attachment” to our country. Oh, and all of those celebs, business people and others who shout “if xxxxx party get in, I am leaving the country”. Come on, what sort of attachment is that? So we can discount them as patriots. Obviously anyone under 30 – they didn’t share the 80s and the major political and social changes in the country, so they can’t be patriotic.
               That’s the problem with shouting about patriotism or calling someone unpatriotic – it’s a thread that unravels far, far, far too quickly. By my reckoning we are probably down to about 60% of the population can rightly call themselves patriotic. Well, that should save too many people wearing and buying the red poppy. After all, that is the ultimate symbol of whether you are a true patriot.
               Actually, no. The Poppy has absolutely nothing, whatsoever, to do with patriotism. It never was the point and never has been the point. In fact, the poppy started in the US – so if it’s going to be claimed by anyone as a symbol for their national patriotism its theirs. If it is patriotism that the Poppy shows, it is being corrupted as it is used in Canada, Australia, the US, Ukraine and countless others. How can it be a symbol of emotional attachment to your country and so many other countries too? So maybe, it really does have nothing to do with Patriotism. All of those countries have services of remembrance too. Maybe we should avoid looking at who is and who isn’t wearing a poppy and what acts of remembrance they attend to work out if they are patriotic.
               These acts of remembrance and the wearing of poppies are identified by the Royal British Legion as “to commemorate the sacrifices of our Armed Forces and to show support to those still serving today”. That’s it. No tubthumping nationalism. No small minded militarism. Nothing to do with the Queen, the Flag or St George. The white poppy by the way, simply has the intention of remembering all casualties of war – whilst at the same time adding the hope that there are no more wars. That has always been the intention. Doesn’t sound so different to me. I do not know many serving soldiers who want there to be more wars. So maybe that is as good a way as any to show support to those still serving today.
               You know, the original derivation of patriot DOESN’T come from standing FOR your country, it comes from standing WITH your countrymen. So if you are standing ready, poised to villify one of your countrymen because he doesn’t attach the right level of importance to all of the same whistles and bells you do, may I make an honest request of you. That you consider whether you are truly involved in either an act of remembrance OR an act of patriotism? Because on Sunday I shall be parading in Prescot with one thing only on my mind – commemorating the sacrifice of others, showing support for those serving today and hoping there are no more wars. If that isn’t your perspective too, I would argue you are the one letting down those aims, not Jeremy Corbyn.
(I won’t normally do this, but you can give to the Royal British Legion for the good work it does at )

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