Why I Choose Not to Wear a Red Poppy
by Marco Lapegna
November 7, 2013
As Remembrance Day here in Canada keeps getting closer, I noticed some animated discussion in regards to campaigns put out by certain groups about wearing a white poppy instead of the traditional red poppy. I find this quite intriguing considering I feel uncomfortable partaking in any Remembrance Day events as they are done right now.
The idea behind white poppy campaigns is to celebrate peace and perhaps put more emphasis on the horrors of war instead of focusing on just the service of veterans. I have to say that at least to me this is a more favourable way to approach the holiday than the traditional way. Even though I don’t see the problem with using a white poppy, considering some supporters of the red poppies say it’s disrespectful, perhaps it would be more appeasing to use a white dove instead.
My biggest apprehension about Rememberance Day as it stands right now is that all the victims of the wars Canada has fought in are not acknowledged or remembered. In my mind, the young soldiers forced to fight for the opposing side in WWI and WWII should also be remembered along with the civilian deaths from both sides. I’m also surprised to have never heard any mentions of the efforts of the Soviets at defeating Hitler’s Germany. The truth is that it was the Soviets that bore the brunt of the Nazi onslaught and they paid a much higher price in stopping the Nazis then all the other allied forces combined. An estimated 20 million Soviets perished during that conflict, considering Canada’s population currently stands at 33 million that is an incredible sacrifice.
Much as is the case today, young soldiers fighting for Germany during the Great Wars were persuaded to pick up arms and kill other young men that had done nothing to them. They are the victims of a form of collectivism more generally described as nationalism. This ideology endorses the idea that the interests of people residing inside their nation-state are different than those that reside outside of it. Once emotions like pride and prejudice are stirred within the people, war becomes a real possibility. These young soldiers have a lot more in common with each other than they do with their leaders that send them into war so easily. In the end the best they can hope for is to come back home with no missing limbs or lasting psychological trauma in the form of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Meanwhile corporations and businesses stand to gain massive fortunes by selling arms at outrageous profits that fuel these wars. Upon reading Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States I was shocked to learn how many of the industrial giants of the late 19th century engaged in war profiteering during the American Civil War. J.P Morgan himself was put on trial for selling over 5,000 defective riffles that had the tendency to malfunction and blow the thumbs off the users. Today all one has to do is look at the price of F-18 fighter jets to see war profiteering in action among numerous other examples. Major General Butler wrote that “War is a racket… It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many” and I can’t help but agree.
Therefore I would feel more comfortable in taking part in Remembrance Day celebrations if the victims of all the wars including the opposing side are also remembered. I feel this would be a much better approach to promote peace in the long run. Not to mention that I feel the best way to honour veterans is for people to commit themselves to making sure no new ones are made. Sadly this is not the case today and the idea that freedom and peace can be spread around the world by dropping bombs and killing people is alive and well.