It’s November. My poppy is white.
Because I’ve seen the red poppy shredded to mulch at the hands of racists and fascists, pinning the tattered pieces of pretend pride over their bigotry.
Because I’ve seen politicians lay a wreath of red poppies, their faces a mask of pain and solemnity, only for them to hang up their jacket coat when they’re back in the warm, pinned poppy surveying the scene, as they order another bomb dropped in a country that they know we won’t look at.
Because when people attack a decades old TV comedy for portraying the First World War as a ‘farce’ – we should be more ‘proud ‘ of a conflict that slaughtered millions – then we have ignored the poets who lie rotting in France in favour of a narrative that makes us feel ‘better’.
Because if your stated (here quoted verbatim) reason for wearing a red poppy is to ‘piss off some Muslims’, then my white leaves bear far less shame than your red excuses.
Because if a fascist government seized power, and if they inevitably stormed with violence over queer disabled me, or any other marginalised group, I don’t believe for one second you would be fighting for our liberation.
Because it was supposed to be a reminder, a warning that this must ‘never happen again’ – and a century later, arms companies hold remembrance day events, paying with money steeped in the very red the poppies on their lapels bade them never spill again.
Because everyone points to those that ‘sacrificed their lives for my freedom’, but no war has been fought over my freedom, in my lifetime or my parents’ – maybe in the walls of government buildings, but not on the battlefield.
Because our military has made enemies of people in their own countries, proclaiming them devils for daring to try and stamp on the feet that stepped into their homes uninvited.
Because hundreds of thousands of people have been killed in the ripples of the stone we threw into their lake, and yet no one lays a ring of red flowers for them, or stops to think of them, or considers that maybe the least we can do is welcome their battered relatives when they ask to come in.
Because sometimes our military is bad, and sometimes our soldiers do bad things, and the fact that I’m scared to type those words makes me wonder what all those people died for in 1945.
Because an Irish sportsman should not be attacked for choosing not to ‘honour’ a military that has committed genocide against his countrymen for centuries.
Because a man of colour should not receive death threats because his red poppy fell off his lapel – it literally fell off and people attacked him for, what, having a non-patriotic gravitational pull? holy hell what are we even doing – and I want no part of a red poppy plucked and twisted in that direction.
Because people step over homeless veterans on their way to the cenotaph to perform their grief.
Because Wilfred Owen told us to no longer believe ‘the old Lie‘, and yet we weave those lies of glory into the very emblems we wear as we recite him.
Because I don’t understand.
Because I’m done with the factory line of grief and glory, of honour and silence, of shutting down questions or opposition, when questions and opposition is the very soil out of which the red poppy grew; I’m done with the expectations, with the looks, the sentiments that I should forego my freedom to ‘honour’ those who supposedly died fighting for it.
Because every time I see a (fake) post on social media about poppies being banned because of ‘political correctness’, I want to curl up in a ball and scream until my face is as red as the very poppies that this ridiculousness is all about (how’s that for a symbol? will a red face do?)
Because this wasn’t what this was supposed to be about, it was supposed to be a symbol against this, against the seduction of the poor and vulnerable out of their homes to slaughter and be slaughtered by the poor and vulnerable of homes across the sea, and yet here we are, calling the poorest into military clutches to make enemies of civilians, again, and again, and again.
Because we live in an imperfect world, a world where sometimes a just war does exist, a world where sometimes wars have to be fought, but it should be our duty to try and take steps closer to a world where war isn’t a necessity.
Because I can’t be a part of a remembrance that doesn’t do that; a remembrance that remembers only to forget; a remembrance that ensures that we never learn.
Because, after all of this, I just want peace.
Do you remember the rats; and the stench
Of corpses rotting in front of the front-line trench–
And dawn coming, dirty-white, and chill with a hopeless rain?
Do you ever stop and ask, ‘Is it all going to happen again?’
– ‘Aftermath‘ by Siegfried Sassoon
This year, I will wear a poppy for the last time – Harry Leslie Smith
White poppy for a culture of peace – Peace Pledge Union