gordon.dewis.ca - Random musings from Gordon


Why I wear a red poppy and not a white one

November 08, 2010 @ 23:17 By: gordon Category: Current affairs

RCL poppyThere’s a group in PEI called the Island Peace Committee that has been distributing white poppies. The IPC says that their white poppies stand for non-violent conflict resolution. The implication seems to be that the red poppies somehow denote support for armed conflicts (i.e. wars) or even glorify them.

This has, needless to say, upset a lot of people, including the Royal Canadian Legion. Generally speaking, the white poppies are being disrespectful to the brave men and women who have fought and died for their country. Aggravating this is the fact that the Island Peace Committee is distributing them at the same time the Legion’s Poppy Campaign is underway.

The red poppies are not glorifying war. They are symbols of “Remembrance, our visual pledge to never forget all those Canadians who have fallen in war and military operations”. Though they’ve been this symbol since 1921, their association with those who were killed in wars can be traced back to the Napoleonic Wars in the 1800s, more than 110 years before being adopted in Canada.

Personally, I wear a poppy to remember people I never knew but who died serving my country and family members like my great-uncle Fred who died in 1944. I also wear it as a sign of respect for those who have served and survived, such as my neighbour, Jack, who I have seen in the crowd shots in the television coverage of more than one Remembrance Day ceremony. Jack told me a couple of days ago that he has been asked to lay a wreath on behalf of our MP at the local Remembrance Day ceremony this Thursday afternoon, something he is proud of.

It’s important to understand that the red poppies are for those who died and not for the wars they died in. To suggest that they stand for anything else is incredibly disrespectful of their sacrifice.

3 Responses to “Why I wear a red poppy and not a white one”

  1. kaitlin says:

    Yes. And no. I bought a poppy this year, a red one, with the intention of wearing it to commemorate those past heroes. My problem with the poppy campaign that is being run, is that it has more recently been under the precipice of chest thumping and cheering for the current war and the Support Our Troops campaigns associated with them.

    I agree with you that suggesting that poppies stand for something other than the sacrifice of soldiers in the name of freedom is disrespectful. The problem is, the new meaning associated with them is being articulated by the government, the legions and the media. And those are forces that are not easy to combat.

    • gordon says:

      There is a huge difference between supporting our troops and supporting the current war.

      The soldiers are fighting because their country has asked them to, even though they don’t have a choice but to follow that command regardless of whether they believe in the reasons for the war. The have taken an oath to serve their country, an oath all the soldiers I know take very seriously. This is an honourable act that I cannot but respect.

      Regardless of whether one believes in the current war, I cannot think of a reason not to support the soldiers.

      I don’t recall seeing anything from the Legion “chest thumping and cheering” for the current war. I don’t know any veterans who wanted to go to war, but I know those who felt it was their duty to, particularly those who served as peace keepers (the original meaning) to defend those who could not defend themselves.

      Protest the war if feel strongly about it, but support the troops because they are only doing their duty.

  2. One of the things that has always pissed me off, from when I was old enough to figure out what was going on (so we’re talking Viet Nam days) is that people get mad at the MILITARY for prosecuting a war.

    The military does what it is told by civilian politicians. If you don’t like a war, blaming soldiers, even the commanding general is weapons-grade stupid. It’s the politicians that send soldiers to war, and the politicians that call them back. So many people don’t understand this. We’re lucky to live in a country where the army can’t decide to go to war all by itself.

    For Joe Soldier, it’s just a job. In fact, most soldiers are not super keen on going out and tear-assing up and down the country side killing people. Most soldiers, will never see “the enemy” even in time of war. The few that are on the pointy-end generally want to do their patrols/whatever and get back a live. They’re not interested in killing and destruction either, but they’ll do what they have to do to get the job done.

    So hooting and hollering at soldiers and military installations is misdirected rage. It’s like protesting matches because there are house fires. If you don’t support a war, protest at your local MP’s constituency office and on Parliament Hill – they’re the ones responsible, and the ones with the power to change the situation.

    But leave the soldier alone. Soldiers are just doing the job you’re paying them to do, and there’s a good chunk of it they don’t like any more than you do.


  1. gordon.dewis.ca | 2010: The year in review (January 04, 2011 @ 16:54)
  2. gordon.dewis.ca | Why I wear a red poppy and not a white one (revisited) (November 08, 2013 @ 15:08)

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