The Bran Report

It's good for parts of you that you'd probably rather not think about.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Paper Poppies

The 11th of November, 1918, was the end of the Great War. Today is Remembrance Sunday, so people here are wearing poppies. Why poppies, you ask? Well, they're prevalent in Belgium and Northern France, and they grow best on ground that has recently been torn up. At one time they were associated with ploughed land.

For a long time something about this tradition has hit me the wrong way, but until today I couldn't put my finger on what it was. As is often the case, it was shown to me by opposition with a tabloid paper. HONOUR OUR FALLEN HEROES it read: and that's exactly it.

The lost souls at Passchendale, Antietam, Mafeking and Faluja were not heroes: they were victims. They did what they had to do and in return they got it right in the neck, often literally. Sometimes what they did was neccesary and other times it wasn't, sometimes they were brave and honourable and other times they weren't, but I don't think you'll go far wrong by assuming that they all, always, wished that it could have turned out differently.

Somehow the poppy seems like a rallying flag, insincere in the worst possible way. I worry that we'll honour the dead the same way that 1918's Treaty of Versailles honoured them: by guaranteeing them plenty of company.


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