Recently a Canadian Hockey legend chided immigrants for not wearing a poppy on Remembrance day on T.V. which he interprets as a sign of disrespect for his way of life.
I am one of those people ( an immigrant to Canada) who doesn’t wear a poppy and here are my reasons.
The poppy is inspired by a poem called In Flanders Fields by John McCrae. I encourage you to look it up and spend a few minutes thinking about what it says. It starts in a graveyard with the buried talking about their tragic death, inviting the living to follow them. Am I the only person who finds that poem macabre? I am a “live and let live” type person. This message of “kill and be killed” doesn’t appeal to me. If you expect me to be inspired to wear a symbolic token once a year for the rest of my life, then I demand to be inspired by better poetry.
Speaking of poems about flowers, here is one that does move me.
Remembrance day in Canada honors all war veterans who participated in any war. Do you expect an Iraqi like myself to honor the Canadian soldiers who participated in the first American led war on Iraq? You really want me to show respect to those who came killing, torturing and destroying to the place I originated from. What about the Canadian involvement in Afghanistan and the senseless loss of civilian life there? Are you asking me to endorse that? Sorry! (See how Canadian I am, I said sorry.) No can do.
The rhetoric surrounding Remembrance day glorifies war. Makes it sound like this heroic thing. I am not a pacifist. It is sometimes necessary for nations to take up arms to protect themselves from aggression. However, we live in the age of preemptive strikes because of imaginary weapons of mass destruction. Beating the drums of war and all the propaganda surrounding it makes me feel queasy.
What happens to all those plastic poppies after November 11th? What do people do with them? I don’t know. But I have a sneaky feeling a large percentage of them end up in the landfill. The poppy I used for the accompanying photograph I found by accident, discarded by its previous owner. We live in an age where we are about to ban plastic straws. Paper coffee cups are frowned upon. Perhaps non-biodegradable single use tokens of respect should be on their way out as well.
As for the charge that my choice is a disrespect to a certain way of life. For better or worse, for richer or poorer, your way of life in now my way of life as well. Where you see lines of division, I see a spectrum of unity. I offer my point of view hoping to foster a respectful debate. I would love to hear from others what they think. Tell me why you wear a poppy and what it means to you. Who knows? You might convince me to change my mind.
Finally, I want to state the obvious. My views are my own and they only represent me. I don’t speak for all immigrants. I don’t speak for anybody except my singular person.