This weekend, an ill-advised teen was arrested for posting a photo of a burning poppy on Facebook. It wasn’t very nice, and it was likely to piss people off, but in my opinion it wasn’t worthy (even slightly!) of an arrest. But I’m not going to start that debate again. What I am going to do, instead, is talk about Remembrance Sunday, the Poppy Appeal, and the dictation of socially acceptable opinions.
Firstly, my opinion on Remembrance Sunday. I like the idea of the day, and I think in many ways it is important that people remember the great sacrifices that have occurred in the past. I hope that, mainly, it will allow people to understand that war isn’t nice, isn’t pleasant, and causes a lot of pain and loss. I hope that as well as respecting those that were conscripted, Remembrance Sunday could potentially produce a generation of people who don’t want a war, and who may (and here I get far too optimistic) breed a country less likely to have to get involved in them – at least on a “World War” scale. I don’t attend the Remembrance ceremonies – 1) because I’m not remotely patriotic and being in the presence of so much of it makes me uncomfortable and 2) because I don’t really do public ceremonies for things like this. I’ll spare a thought about it, and then I’ll move on.
Then there is the Poppy Appeal, and here’s where I get controversial – I don’t really like it. I don’t mind a jot if other people choose to support it, and I am not against the appeal at all – it just makes me uneasy. Firstly, I am a naive pacifist, and I have preferred charities above and beyond those that support our current armed forces. Again, nothing against the people who support them – it’s just not my cup of tea. Then there is the vitriol of the campaigners. Aside from this year, when no one at all has tried to sell me a poppy (where did they go?!), I normally have poppies quite violently thrust at me, and upon refusing often am greeted with comments, complaints, and really active insistence. Whatever the charity, whatever the cause, cut that out immediately.
So, I have a personal preference for other charities and choose not to participate in the Poppy Appeal for personal and political reasons. Nothing unheard of there.
However, I am always surprised by how vocally and passionately this simple personal choice is taken. On Sunday, I posted the harmless Facebook post “The joys of everyone else being off poppying… your choice of seats in Wetherspoons!”. I received a comment “Shocking”, and an instant de-friending. God only knows why! In other years, I’ve encountered anger, swearing and a huge amount of negativity, often without even expressing an opinion on the matter. It seems that this is one issue on which you are expect to participate, in which you are expected to believe.
So, the question is this… when did the Poppy Appeal become something you HAD to participate in? Why is this in particular so capable of boiling people’s blood? Since when have I not been allowed to quietly have my own views?
Has anyone else experienced similar?