Halloween has been over for two days now, and now that it is over there’s quite a few other holidays on people’s minds. In three days we celebrate Guy Fawkes Night, in 53 days we celebrate Christmas, and in 24 days I personally celebrate the American holiday Thanksgiving because of the personal connection I feel I have with America. But in 9 days we have a holiday coming up that serves only to reduce much of the British people to the state of unthinking patriotism: Remembrance Day. To be honest though, it’s probably been on people’s minds for the past few weeks or so.
How do I know it inspires such strong feeling towards conformity? Well, probably because people not wearing poppies in the run up to Remembrance Day seems to make the news for some stupid reason. From a video of Jeremy Corbyn questioning government spending on last year’s Armistice celebration from two years ago, to Irish soccer player James McClean’s refusal to wear it also somehow being important. In the latter’s case, it’s worth noting he refused to wear the poppy many times before, and has even received death threats for it. In fact, British public figures who don’t wear poppies tend to meet the wrath of public scorn, as well as abuse on Twitter. And Remembrance Day also tends to give people a reason to act like the same jackasses you probably associate America with at times: you know, the people who go on social media to tell everyone about how they’ll wear a poppy and how anyone who’s offended can leave the UK, as if anyone was actually offended by a poppy. Doesn’t that sound familiar? It should. It sounds exactly like those people you hear about who tell people “if you don’t like America then go to Iraq”.
It’s pretty weird actually. I don’t remember wearing a poppy at any point (or at least not at any point past high school), and nobody gave a shit about it. They don’t give a shit in university either. Truth be told, I probably wouldn’t give a shit about this whole thing did I not keep hearing about people taking the flak for not wearing a poppy, and about people trying to cram poppies down people’s throats in the name of what amounts to petty nationalism. Seriously, that’s my main problem. No one should care about any holiday badly enough that you’re willing to harass people who don’t observe its associated norms. And for what? To remember those who died to fight Germany and in the grand scheme of things only accomplish a small bit of stability before we had to fight them again? To honor the ideal of placing this outer notion of duty over yourself and what you believe in? If anything I think I’d be less concerned about those who died for the past than those who fight for the present and future.
I’d also mention that some people wear white poppies to represent the hope for peace and an end to all wars. To me, it does little more than co-opt pacifist ideals into a symbol that might suit the cultural norms of the UK, which is why it’s stupid that people make a big deal of wearing them too.