What to remember, and how

Remembrance Day arguments make me think about how petty Remembrance Day arguments are

Mike Davies, Editor-in-Chief Ω

Around this time every year I get reflective.

I’m sure it has to do with Remembrance Day and all the focus it pulls, especially during years where there is peripheral uproar about the day.

This year, for example, we not only have the re-emergence of the White Poppy Movement, which seems to find new legs every few years, but we also have the “Don’t put up Christmas decorations until after Remembrance Day” movement. They’re going to need a shorter name.

Because the White Poppy Movement has been around since about 1933 in one form or another, I’m not going to go in-depth into it here, but a extreme simplification of it is that some people don’t like war and wear a white poppy to express that, and the red poppy advocates have taken offence saying that it’s disrespectful to our veterans to do this.

I agree with parts of both sides’ argument on this.

Sure, the “white poppy” people could have picked a different flower altogether, and their protests at Remembrance Day ceremonies and overall imposition into the traditional ceremonies and events that many of us care about are disrespectful.

On the other hand, their movement comes out of one that began 15 years after the introduction of the red poppy as the symbol of remembrance of those who die in war — a symbol which itself was lifted from a poem about the First World War — and what of those who believe that fighting unjustified wars makes us worse us a country rather than making us better?

Can they wear a red poppy to signify their respect for those who died in the Second World War (a totally justified war that needed fighting) but hold a sign that says, “But I don’t believe in wars over oil!” or “How about we stop sending our kids to die when things don’t actually threaten our way of life?”

I’m sure that would be seen as disrespectful, too.

I don’t think we can expect people to hold their tongues on this. War is not a black and white issue. It’s not a matter of “we go to war or we all lose our freedom,” anymore.

There needs to be a way to express the nuance that comes with a complicated issue like respect for those who have died for causes that we both do and do not agree with.

One of the freedoms many people died to protect is the freedom to express how you feel, after all.

As for the “Don’t put up Christmas decorations until after Remembrance Day,” arguments, I just have to say this:

When I heard this woman on CBC radio talking about how “it feels like Starbucks is more interested in selling seasonal coffees to people than respecting our veterans,” I immediately thought, “Of course they do, you [expletive deleted] idiot.”

Do we really expect corporations to be willing to make LESS money voluntarily?

You do know that the tenet of our society that wars are generally fought for is capitalism, right?

In a way they would be disrespecting our veterans by not taking full advantage of the capitalist society that those veterans helped safeguard, wouldn’t they?

If they wanted to honour their sacrifice, maybe they should have the time between Halloween and Remembrance Day be “Veteran’s week” (because you don’t need to be accurate about the duration) where they have discounts on poppy seed muffins and invent a latté that they can sell and give a dollar from each one to the Legion.

They’ll make a mint.

I don’t see how that would possibly be more respectful than starting their Christmas celebrations before Nov. 11, but it’s the other option, I’m afraid.

But the arguments surrounding Remembrance Day and how we should engage with it remind me to be reflective for a different reason, though.

They remind me that I have a good life here in Kamloops, B.C.

That’s due in part to those who have died to protect the freedoms we hold dear, and it’s due to those freedoms themselves.

The people who are trying to survive without food and clean water after Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines aren’t arguing over what colour they should be wearing.

How about you think about — and remember — that when you are getting your five-dollar Frappuccino and complaining about the Christmas decorations being up already.