White Poppies

November 8, 2009 at 5:26 pm (Life, Memoir) (, , )

I wish there was somewhere in Saskatoon where I could buy a white poppy for Remembrance Day. The only poppy available here is, of course, the Red Poppy. For those of you not in the know, the white poppy symbolizes peace. The Red Poppy is for remembrance of the war dead. The White Poppy movement started in the United Kingdom, in 1926, as the No More War Movement. I have no problem supporting the troops and remembering those lives, both military and civilian, lost to war. I’m just not comfortable supporting war as a way to deal with conflict. There HAS to be a better way!

poppy_card

Let me start with a little background, for those of you who don’t know me. My dad joined the air force, I assume, just after he finished school. I do know that by the time he was twenty-five, he had a wife and four kids. I was the third daughter and was born when he was stationed on an army base in Germany. My older sisters were born on bases in Canada. My mom was an unhappy army wife, alone and ignored in a foreign country. Not soon after I was born my Dad was out of the service… I’ve heard rumours of a dishonourable discharge. Nobody’s ever discussed it with me. He left us soon after to start over with a new family. Alcoholism ran rampant in his life.

My mother’s father grew up somewhere in Poland, he told me tales of being conscripted into the Russian Army (WWI I do believe), of riding horses during this war, and of starving in Russia & eating tomatoes for the first time. He ate his tomatoes with sugar, which was the way he ate them to the day he died. He hadn’t eaten tomatoes before as he had been told they were poisonous. He didn’t make war sound adventurous or fun or noble.

Most of my siblings, at some point in their life joined the Cadets. The eldest and youngest were active for years. The youngest got her pilot’s license because of the Cadets. My stepmother has been, and still is, very active in this organization. I lasted a week. Didn’t like the marching, the guns, being told what to do and when to do it. It was never an organization where I felt validated or safe.

I can understand the lure of joining the military. It provides you with structure, shelter, and food. It can give you a community to belong to and believe in. A younger brother and niece both joined out of family obligation. Neither lasted. My brother did basic training and was back home shortly after; why it didn’t work out I was never told. My niece went overseas with the Cadets and was sent home early, again I don’t know why. Maybe this is why I have a problem with the military, it seems overridden with secrets.

I am also concerned about who makes up the majority of most armies. By that I mean who is on the frontlines shooting and getting shot at. “We are the dead” as it says in the poem; In Flanders Field. It is the poor and disenfranchised who make up the majority of the dying in both the military and civilian ranks.

This military culture, we (society) glorify scares me. I know this culture. It is a culture that results in a reckless lifestyle that leads to too much drinking and abuse. The ads should say see the world, kill those more disenfranchised than you and escape from your life and responsibilities. Can’t we hope to achieve peace without waging war?

I want a chance to show that I’m tired of this mindset. I want to stand for peace. I want a white poppy to wear.

Ypres_Ian Britton

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4 Comments

  1. saskboy said,

    I see the red poppy as a peace symbol. There is no greater symbol of the terrible cost of choosing war to settle disputes, than the flower that grows on top of a lost generation during WWI.

  2. Vimy Memorial Bandshell « Solitary Spinster said,

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  3. 11th Hour of the 11th Day of the 11th Month « Solitary Spinster said,

    […] My father and step-mother have always been active Legion members. My sisters and brothers have marched as cadets in Remembrance Day parades. My step-mother plays the bagpipes. My mother weeps at the sound of the pipes wail. I have never marched. I was not a cadet. I am conflicted about wearing a poppy. […]

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