James McClean. Footballer and his refusal to wear the poppy
November 7, 2018 9:48 AM   Subscribe

 
There's a lot I don't understand about the history here, but this seems like a thing that was handled in the worst way possible. A delayed response and continuing antagonism? Pretty much the opposite approach as Kaepernick, which makes the comparison kind of offensive. Maybe they don't understand the subtleties of Kaep the way I don't understand the subtleties of McClean.
posted by rhizome at 10:07 AM on November 7 [2 favorites]


The Guardian’s gem of a football cartoonist, David Squires, has taken yearly aim at “poppygate”: 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, and while he hasn’t devoted a whole cartoon to it this year, he touches on it in his latest one.
posted by Kattullus at 10:27 AM on November 7 [7 favorites]


Sunderland said his reasons were “personal”, but McClean would later claim that he had been “hung out to dry” and told not to explain his reasons. It was only after he had left Sunderland ... that McClean clarified his rationale for not wearing the poppy.
Sounds like he was told by the ownership of his previous club not to explain his refusal, hence the "delayed response".
posted by tobascodagama at 10:28 AM on November 7 [3 favorites]


not the kind of anti-Irishness some Irish-Americans believe exists and affects them

Love this sweet subtle dig at the American "white people are oppressed too" bullshit.
posted by explosion at 10:35 AM on November 7 [17 favorites]


This is purely a personal incident, but it's something I'll never forget. The very first year my family moved to Canada, I was yelled at by an older white man for not wearing a poppy around Remembrance day. I was fairly young and the significance of that poppy was not something I was aware of and I recall being made to feel very unwelcome and it's always stuck with me.

I absolutely understand the history and what that poppy symbolizes but I also dislike the idea that I have to wear this symbol in order to prove some sense of patriotism or belonging. A person can still be aware of the history of service of those in the military, their sacrifices, and all of that without having to put on the poppy. That first reaction has always stuck with me and it was likely just that person, but the poppy feels kind of stained to me and I just ruffle up against people who demand that I do a thing because everyone else says it is right. Take all of this with a grain of salt.
posted by Fizz at 10:38 AM on November 7 [46 favorites]


On preview: exactly what Fizz says.

By delayed response, do you mean his initial silence about why he chose not to wear the poppy? According to McClean, that was because he was told by his (English) bosses not to explain his reasons. He didn't explain until he left that particular football club and presumably felt more free to speak the truth.

And yes, he has fought back against his attackers, which is different from Kaepernick, but I don't think the article is saying their approaches are similar. I think the author is drawing parallels between them as two sports players who have suffered a lot of criticism, from their teams' own fans as well as others, for refusing to participate in symbolic gestures that they feel trivialize and/or celebrate brutality against their own people. The oppression of Irish Catholics by the British has a very brutal history.

I think it's worse in Britain, but it's hard to understand that kind of pressure if you don't live in a place where wearing the poppy is such an institution. There can be outright condemnation for those who refuse to wear a poppy. I live in a Commonwealth country where the poppy is ubiquitous and there is a lot of pressure to wear one and make donations to the poppy funds, which are run by the Legion (which has exclusive legal rights to the image of the poppy here). Most of the people I see around me are wearing a poppy right now. I know people (all white men) who feel free to give people shit if they're not wearing a poppy around Remembrance Day. However, I myself feel conflicted about the poppy for the reasons listed in the BBC article I linked to.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 10:42 AM on November 7 [15 favorites]


What puzzles me is the way the poppy thing has actually grown over the years, even though the major wars of the twentieth century are ever more remote. When I was a boy, you bought one on the day, or didn’t, and nobody bothered about it that much. Now everyone on TV or in any way public has to have one for like, three weeks ahead of the day.
posted by Segundus at 10:49 AM on November 7 [21 favorites]


of the 351 foreign players in the Premier League, only 10 come from countries never invaded by Britain.
posted by clawsoon at 10:53 AM on November 7 [34 favorites]


Americans might be better off comparing the poppy thing to the obsession with politicians wearing (or not) flag pins on their lapels. It's the exact same form of compulsory jingoism, as far as I can tell.
posted by tobascodagama at 10:56 AM on November 7 [22 favorites]


Nemanja Matic (a Manchester United player) also notably didn't wear a poppy over the weekend. His reasoning was that due to being bombarded by NATO planes as a kid in Serbia he doesn't exactly have the best associations with the British military. The lack of poppy was noted but once his explanation came out I didn't see much further comment about it.

A legion member delivering poppies to various halls crashed into my car last week. He was pretty sorry and the whole thing was about as pleasant as a car crash can be. I felt a bit sorry for the guy even though it was totally his fault, and I have to imagine him being a veteran delivering poppies for Remembrance Day had more than a little to do with that.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 10:59 AM on November 7 [2 favorites]


An aside, it should be noted with regards to the national team the IFA (the Irish Football Association est 1911 based in Belfast who are in charge of Northern Irish football, not to be confused with the johnny-come-lately
Football Association of Ireland formed 1921 who manage football in the Republic of Ireland) have done tremendous work combating sectarianism within NI international football and supporters since the time of Lennon. It's so much better than it was, much more comfortable for people who can happily support a team full of local guys but not so hot on the concept of the state itself.
posted by Damienmce at 11:10 AM on November 7 [1 favorite]


His reasoning was that due to being bombarded by NATO planes as a kid in Serbia he doesn't exactly have the best associations with the British military.

Which rather confirms that the harassment of McClean is primarily driven by anti-Irish sentiment, not devotion to the poppy.
posted by tavella at 11:12 AM on November 7 [5 favorites]


Also to add to the confusion, the Taoiseach is wearing a poppy.
posted by Damienmce at 11:13 AM on November 7 [1 favorite]


I absolutely understand the history and what that poppy symbolizes but I also dislike the idea that I have to wear this symbol in order to prove some sense of patriotism or belonging.

Nemanja Matic (a Manchester United player) also notably didn't wear a poppy over the weekend. His reasoning was that due to being bombarded by NATO planes as a kid in Serbia he doesn't exactly have the best associations with the British military. The lack of poppy was noted but once his explanation came out I didn't see much further comment about it.

No one should ever be forced to wear a poppy. For one, that takes away all meaning and significance. When I wear a poppy, I do so very deliberately. I don't want anyone to be wearing one without meaning it.

For me, the poppy is directly linked to McRae's poem - also the much less known, but probably better poem by Isaac Rosenberg - and to the suffering specifically of WWI. Indirectly, it's a reminder of death and suffering in all war, something which I think that someone like me - living my whole life in peace, insulated even from my own country's conflict - needs even more than anyone who lived through the great war, or the second world war, or one of the many, many modern conflicts since. It reminds me that there are thousands of veterans, including Canadian, who are my age, not that of my grandparents.

And maybe it's different in the UK, but it's also not a symbol with a national exclusivity, for me. We were taught that it wasn't just to honour our own soldiers, but to remember the dead on all sides. I just learned this year, in preparing for the 100th anniversary of the Armistice, that one third of the population of the Kingdom of Serbia were killed in WWI. This year, I will wear a poppy for them.
posted by jb at 11:21 AM on November 7 [6 favorites]


I was just thinking today that there seem to be fewer poppies worn by people I see at work or around the British city I live in. I haven't worn one for years, at least a decade, and no one has ever mentioned it or seemed to care. However, when I was a kid, my mother used to check me and my siblings were wearing one before sending us to school and would have been mortified if we weren't. It seemed like everyone wore them.

But now any dissenting newsreader or footballer has to face this kind of stupid inquisition about why they choose not to wear one. Weird.
posted by ElasticParrot at 11:24 AM on November 7


After the Spain-England match a few weeks ago:
Just as shaming in Seville on Monday afternoon was the number of England fans who decided that they wanted to define themselves as being against the Irish, and against Roman Catholics. Shouts of “No surrender” between the third and fourth lines of the national anthem have become depressingly frequent at England games. They are just as loud as the rest of the anthem, undermining the claim that sectarianism is only the preserve of a “tiny minority” of the England travelling support.

There is an obsession with Northern Ireland and The Troubles, as shown by the widespread chanting of “F*** the IRA”. What stands out is that those singing are not veterans of the 1980s and 1990s, whose formative years were when this was the dominant issue in British national life. These are English youngsters, born around the time of the Good Friday Agreement, growing up in a time when Northern Ireland was fading away as an issue. And at the time of their lives when they choose who they identify with, and who they identify against, this is what they have chosen.

That explains the worst of all England songs heard in Seville this week, in the bars on Sunday night, and on the walk to the ground on Monday evening. It is made up of three words: “F*** the Pope”. As if we have dredged up the logic of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, and decided that this is how we must organise ourselves now. Draw a line in the sand: English on this side, Catholics on the other.
"When England play overseas, it is always the voice of the angry, white, male racist that shouts loudest" - Jack Pitt-Brooke, The Independent
posted by kersplunk at 11:25 AM on November 7 [17 favorites]


I personally don't wear a poppy for reasons not unlike McClean's and there shouldn't be any shame or hatred for that. The wearing of the poppy in some communities can be a really charged thing but the policing of it is repugnant.

Locally, some of my pacifist Mennonite friends and family wear a read button instead of a poppy with the line "to remember is to work for peace" echoing the white poppy some people wear. I've personally never witnessed any conflict because of it but I've heard of it happening with some friends.
posted by Ashwagandha at 11:27 AM on November 7 [5 favorites]


I also dislike the idea that I have to wear this symbol in order to prove some sense of patriotism or belonging.

I haven't worn a poppy since 1992, when Canadian vets put up a stink about CBC's The Valour and the Horror. Veterans took issue with the portrayal of WWII Bomber Command, that Canadian bombing raids over Germany may have resulted in some not-so-nice things happening to civilians (although I do not believe the series suggested any personal culpability on the part of the airmen, but rather their command). Poppies being sold as a fundraiser for the Legion -- I supported their charitable aims of helping disabled kids and veterans, but wasn't willing to fund legal campaigns to shut down free speech (being one of those things we fought the wars for).

That original idea disappeared over time, turning into a dislike of compulsory jingoism, as said above. I like the idea of wearing a white poppy, in remembrance of the victims of all wars and not just the soldiers, but I suspect that wearing a white poppy would go over less well than wearing no poppy at all. I learned early that pacifism is not a popular cause, when I was in grade school and tried to get John Lennon's Give Peace a Chance played at our Remembrance Day ceremony. That experience taught me that the good words and speeches about peace and the gesture of wearing the poppy were largely hollow, and why should I participate in that?
posted by Capt. Renault at 11:27 AM on November 7 [13 favorites]


maybe it's different in the UK, but it's also not a symbol with a national exclusivity, for me

For the British Legion, who benefit from the sales, it's quite clearly a thing to celebrate the "goodies", not to remember the suffering of everyone who was made to fight and die.

"The Royal British Legion’s annual Poppy Appeal has launched today with a series of installations across the UK to highlight reasons to say ‘Thank You’ to the First World War generation. The Legion is calling on the nation to wear their poppies with pride and back its ‘Thank You’ movement in the year that marks the end of the First World War centenary."

I don't believe that we should be thanking a generation that was conscripted into Hell. You don't thank people for that. You apologise.

The British Legion do some good work with some very traumatised people, and I've been able to get help for some of my clients from them when I've needed it. But the idea that we have a civic duty annually donate millions so they can give special treatment to those who choose to kill for pay, as opposed to those who are harmed by less politically convenient things; well, it sticks in my craw. I would never want anyone to be denied the help they need, but there's no justice in how the British Legion use the money they raise.
posted by howfar at 11:49 AM on November 7 [18 favorites]


Good on McClean, and Fuck Stoke City supporters.

In 2010 Stoke player, Ryan Shawcross broke Arsenal player, Aaron Ramsey's leg in 2 (seriously, don't look it up), and then mocked him as he was stretchered off the pitch!

So how do classy Stoke supporters respond when Arsenal & Aaron Ramsey plays against them? They sing "Aaron Ramsey, he walks with a limp."

Again, Fuck SCFC supporters. Cretins.
posted by terrapin at 11:52 AM on November 7 [2 favorites]


I agree with your comment, howfar. As an organization, the Royal Canadian Legion has left a sour taste in my mouth many times over the years.

"While its core political mandate is improving veterans' services, the Legion has long advocated militarism and a reactionary worldview" including support of racist actions against minority groups, support of American nuclear weapons build-up, dedication to rooting out "subversives," and advocating suppression of even mild criticism of military action (like Capt. Renault mentioned).

And the Royal Canadian Legion controls the red poppy completely--they have trademarked it and all donations for poppies go to them. They have been very clear that they feel the white/peace poppy is an insult to veterans and a possible trademark infringement.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:14 PM on November 7 [5 favorites]


As an organization, the Royal Canadian Legion has left a sour taste in my mouth many times over the years.

Maybe it's the small town we lived in for 10 years but the Legion in that town was very aggressive towards my father. He was a member of the local Lions Club and they refused to serve my father a drink. These types of aggression/actions just leave me having a bad taste when it comes to anything with their organization. Again it could just be the small-minded community that we lived in (thankfully we moved away and have no plans of ever returning), but I completely get this feeling.
posted by Fizz at 12:32 PM on November 7 [2 favorites]


Historically, the Royal Canadian Legion has been racist and conservative - you know, like most of Canada.

They are also the main support for veterans, including the most recent veterans of wars in Afghanistan and elsewhere. I give money every year for that reason.

But the idea that we have a civic duty annually donate millions so they can give special treatment to those who choose to kill for pay, as opposed to those who are harmed by less politically convenient things; well, it sticks in my craw.

So, really, what you object to is anyone who ever fights in a war. If you're a complete pacifist, that makes sense. But the world is complicated, and I see the times when wars are crimes and times when wars - and soldiers - prevent crimes, at least when we give them what they need to do so. Had there been more Canadian soldiers in Rwanda, would the genocide have been as successful? If we hadn't bombed Serbia, would there have been another genocide in Kosovo?

I live with a historian of war and conflict. I've read books of statistics on WWI (actually, most soldiers were volunteers, and upper class families had more fatalities, because officers were more likely to die than private soldiers). I'm very aware that war is far from glorious. But sometimes it is necessary. And even when it isn't, I would take that out on the politicians who call for it, not on the men and women who serve - and part of their sacred duty is that they serve at our command. They don't make the choice of when or where: we do.
posted by jb at 12:35 PM on November 7 [3 favorites]


I feel that terms like 'sacred duty' obscure the horror and sheer unnecessary participation in certain global conflicts of my country (Canada), such as WWI and II. I say this as someone who lost family in the second world war, and whose own father is named after the man who didn't come back from Europe, or live to see his 21st birthday.

There's nothing sacred about being fed to the grist mill or mechanized murder, nor in participating in 'great power' conflicts that had nothing to do with our nation. These conflicts are entirely separate from most of the later peacekeeping missions and military actions undertaken by my nation, and it's long past time we re-examined our past here so we can truly take stock of the impact of those decisions.
posted by jordantwodelta at 12:44 PM on November 7 [7 favorites]


Again, Fuck SCFC supporters. Cretins.


Stoke City fan here. There is no doubt that a section of the support are complete and total assholes. However, that is the case for all teams. I think the vast majority of Stoke supporters would like never to hear about the Ramsey incident ever again. He scored against us a few times since and we don't even play in the same division anymore so he's had his payback. It's ancient history as far as most are concerned and fans that do sing songs like you mention are pretty widely condemned.
posted by josher71 at 12:46 PM on November 7 [3 favorites]


So, really, what you object to is anyone who ever fights in a war. If you're a complete pacifist, that makes sense. But the world is complicated, and I see the times when wars are crimes and times when wars - and soldiers - prevent crimes, at least when we give them what they need to do so. Had there been more Canadian soldiers in Rwanda, would the genocide have been as successful? If we hadn't bombed Serbia, would there have been another genocide in Kosovo?

The Royal British Legion is pretty unequivocal about supporting British soldiers and British foreign policy in all wars they participated in over the last century. Just read the language on the post-WW II section of their What We Remember page, talking about Britain's "colonial commitments" while ignoring the atrocities committed in an attempt to hang onto those commitments.
posted by kersplunk at 1:08 PM on November 7 [9 favorites]


While it is a good thing to remember the sacrifices made, isn't it about time we moved on.
Most people alive today won't even remember the two big wars so the point of it will just go over their heads.
Let us us try not to make the same mistakes again, though I suspect, knowing mankind, that is a hollow wish.
posted by Burn_IT at 1:20 PM on November 7 [1 favorite]


I feel that terms like 'sacred duty' obscure the horror and sheer unnecessary participation in certain global conflicts of my country (Canada), such as WWI and II.

I'm sorry - I was using 'sacred duty' in a very specific sense: basically, when you give someone an automatic weapon and permission to use it, you have to be very, very clear on the rules and when and how they are allowed to use it. Soldiers in well-regulated armies are inculcated in those rules, and it includes things like how they don't get to decide on what fights to fight. That's their sacred duty: to follow orders, provided they aren't illegal orders. In our shared country, Canada, another part of the rules is that the military's loyalty is not to any party or specific government, but to the Crown as represented by the governor general. The prime minister is not the head of the armed forces; the Queen is (and she's notably apolitical).

When armies don't have these rules - or when people without this kind of training are given automatic weapons (like the police in the US) - it's bad thing.

So I didn't mean that serving in war is a sacred duty - I meant that when you are part of the armed forces, you take on certain rules and duties that should be held to be somewhat sacred or unbreakable (like no using the army against another political party in your country).
posted by jb at 1:48 PM on November 7 [3 favorites]


While it is a good thing to remember the sacrifices made, isn't it about time we moved on.
Most people alive today won't even remember the two big wars so the point of it will just go over their heads.


So we shouldn't have Remembrance Day, because people don't remember ... ?

This seems self-defeating. I've always thought that the point of Remembrance Day - like Yom HaShoah in the Jewish community (Holocaust Remembrance Day) was to teach people who weren't alive so that they have a better understanding of what happened and why. Not always to condemn war (would I condemn fighting Germany in WW2? Absolutely not.), not to praise it -- but to learn and remember.

Also, I don't know if you've been to any recent services, but I have seen veterans my age (~40 years) and younger there. WWI may have been 100 years ago, but (for Canadians) Korean, Afghanistan and many peace-keeping missions (Bosnia, Rwanda, etc) are well within living memory and happening right now. My aunt is just 60, and she's a veteran, and far from being among the youngest. My husband has two cousins and an uncle who have been part of the Canadian Forces.

I should leave this thread now, so it isn't all about me. But one last thought:

As I mentioned, I live with a historian of war and conflict. He's a civilian who spends his life studying things connected to the military, including military culture. Something that he's noticed has become especially pronounced is that the divide between the military and civilian worlds in Canada have become more and more divided, especially in urban Canada.

This is partly the fault of the Canadian Forces: they've made little effort to reach out to urban Canadians, to New Canadians. They've even made it harder to be accepted into the reserves if you live in a city like Toronto; we have the same number of open spots as much smaller communities.

The result is that, unlike our grandparents' generation, many younger Canadians don't know anyone who has served in the military, and don't understand the culture of the military here, how it functions, etc. It's not that they don't exist: there are thousands of Canadians in their 20s and 30s who have a profoundly personal knowledge of war and military service. We (that is, civilian and especially urban Canadians) just don't know them, and don't talk to them.

This conversation would be near on incomprehensible in some communities in Canada, like Kingston or Cold Lake. We have our two solitudes of English and French, but our solitudes of civilian and military are also increasingly divided.
posted by jb at 2:02 PM on November 7 [3 favorites]


What puzzles me is the way the poppy thing has actually grown over the years, even though the major wars of the twentieth century are ever more remote. When I was a boy, you bought one on the day, or didn’t, and nobody bothered about it that much. Now everyone on TV or in any way public has to have one for like, three weeks ahead of the day.

I think that there was a big rise in heroic rhetoric about the military in the UK during the Afghanistan/Iraq campaigns — the charity Help For Heroes being a big part of that. I think some of it was actually because of a discomfort about those wars; people knew that ‘our boys’ were being wounded and killed but there wasn’t much public enthusiasm for what they were doing, particularly in Iraq and particularly as time went on. So there’s a weird dissonant thing where people aren’t necessarily militaristic or pro-war, but want to support Our Brave Lads.

Although inevitably that also feeds into tabloid nationalism and political point-scoring and so on, and it tips over into a more toxic version very easily.

I also wonder if there was a moment when the RBL made a focussed effort to try and get everyone on TV to wear a poppy; sending out boxes and boxes of them to every TV studio in the country, or whatever. Or perhaps a particular moment when it became BBC policy for presenters to wear them. Because once it becomes a norm it becomes a stick to beat people with.
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 2:19 PM on November 7 [5 favorites]


And even when it isn't, I would take that out on the politicians who call for it, not on the men and women who serve - and part of their sacred duty is that they serve at our command.

Thinking individuals should be able to tell that politicians cannot be trusted with a generalised power to command someone to kill. If someone swears a "sacred" oath to obey a class of people who have abused the trust of those they govern on countless occasions, the blood is on their hands when their oath is similarly corrupted. They walked in with their eyes open.
posted by howfar at 3:10 PM on November 7 [2 favorites]


Also to add to the confusion, the Taoiseach is wearing a poppy.

I would see this as something of a separate issue considering how fraught the history of commemorating the thousands of Irish veterans of WWI is. I do think it's shameful how the history of these soldiers - some who signed up at Redmond's urging specifically as a means of achieving limited independence for Ireland as a concession for their commitment to the war effort, some of whom (granted) signed up for literally the opposite reason, some of whom signed up because a job's a job and you got a uniform - was almost completely swept under the carpet in the republic for most of the 20th century. Their existence was not convenient in a country that traced its legacy to the Easter Rising and everything that followed.

These veterans were accused of being traitors or worse and at best got something like simplistic mixed pity: all those fine young men who marched to foreign shores to fight the war/when the greatest war of all was at home. I don't agree that they necessarily did the right thing or that this Remembrance Day and all the poppy cruft is at all the best way to commemorate men being fed into a meat grinder... but some sort of commemoration is worthwhile. The idea of a taoiseach acknowledging that even ten years ago would have been unbelievable.

That said, in the UK... good on McClean for enduring this shit for so long and standing by his convictions. He's spot on and I don't wear it for the same reasons. The Royal British Legion is perfectly clear that their poppy is a token of support for any and all of Britain's wars. If people want to find their own more personal meaning in it, good for them, but even if you put aside what's being supported by their omnipresence in British culture it's worth considering where the poppies come from: Royal British Legion criticised for using prisoners earning £10 a week to make poppies.

Anyway even if it weren't commemorating a shit-ton of imperialism, the status of the poppy in England (can't speak for Wales or Scotland) is a ghastly display. Ubiquitous pro-military tackiness pushing a weird fetishisation of 'our boys' steadily seems to be subsuming any thoughtful commemoration of the senseless sacrifice in WWI in favour of a frantic snarling jingoism. It's not even a post-Brexit problem, though the feverish calls for the 'Blitz spirit' and the increased visibility of the xenophobia that was always there doesn't help. Show up on tv without your poppy and good fucking luck dodging the death threats and online abuse.

In this, yeah, all the post 9-11 US lapel-flag viciousness and public patriotism evaluation is an pretty apt comparison. Imagine if all that tasteless "crying eagles over the twin towers, NEVAR FORGET" shit was everywhere, every year, for the better part of two months. Now imagine if you're from one of the many countries whose experience with the British military was not a good one. It's wild.
posted by ocular shenanigans at 3:21 PM on November 7 [10 favorites]


Also that was a far more nuanced article about the political and cultural aspects of British football than I would have expected from Deadspin, probably in part because the author is from Derry, so thank you. Odrán Waldron is someone I'll watch out for from now on.
posted by ocular shenanigans at 4:10 PM on November 7 [3 favorites]


Poppy mania in the UK seems to get worse every year ... may be it'll die down a bit now we've got through the various anniversaries of the First World War. (Which, instead of some utter tragic waste of life, now seems to be treated as World War Two, Part One... I mean there was someone on the BBC the other day in front of a WWI mass grave saying, unchallenged, 'they died so we can have free speech!')

I passed through Kings Cross Station earlier and they have a, what must be at least, 30 foot poppy hanging from the rafters. If that's not literally over the top I don't know what is. (I mean they have quite a dignified war memorial around the corner for the railway staff who lost their lives in conflicts, why not add a wreath to that?).

Bring back Jeremy Deller, please.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 4:17 PM on November 7 [2 favorites]


Yesterday my mother asked me why I wasn't wearing a poppy
posted by canoehead at 4:19 PM on November 7


Yesterday my mother asked me why I wasn't wearing a poppy

Because we don't all have to do the same things as everyone else!
posted by freakazoid at 4:34 PM on November 7


In NI things are complicated and simple - you don’t wear a poppy if you’re Catholic. It’s one of the signifiers here, and there are many. A Catholic from the Creggan could not wear a poppy. Stoke fans can abuse him all they want but McClean knows that’s the preferable (though disgraceful) alternative to the abuse he’d get from people back home. The feelings towards the British Army aren’t related to events 70-something years ago; they’re much, much more recent.
posted by billiebee at 5:36 PM on November 7 [14 favorites]


So, really, what you object to is anyone who ever fights in a war.

That's a bit of a stretch in interpretation for someone saying that soldiers shouldn't get special treatment relative to the civilians they were bombing or shooting in the direction of.
posted by Dysk at 5:55 PM on November 7 [3 favorites]


Poppies are complex in Canada. Previous PM Harper pushed a glorification of military imagery, which sometimes blurred the commemoration of veteran sacrifices with political posturing. It could have been worse, but Harper & Fantino posing for the anthems was annoying enough.
posted by ovvl at 7:04 PM on November 7 [1 favorite]


WW2 veteran Harry Leslie Smith: This year, I will wear a poppy for the last time . "I will remember friends and comrades in private next year, as the solemnity of remembrance has been twisted into a justification for conflict."
posted by TheophileEscargot at 8:16 PM on November 7 [15 favorites]


I've definitely noticed the change over the past 15 years in Canada, and have grown increasingly uncomfortable wearing a poppy. There is a whole lot more jingoism and militarism than there used to be.

The message I got as a kid in the 80's was remembering all the victims of war. The War Amp videos from elementary school were straight up Never Again (cw: amputations, death, nothing graphic).

Maybe I'm misremembering what the tone was, but I think there has been a marked shift.
posted by dr. moot at 10:48 PM on November 7 [5 favorites]


I've noticed that too, it feels much more about thanking veterans for our freedom now, which I find a bit strange. I'm happy to advocate for better access to mental health care and other suports for veterans, but that never seems to be a part of the conversation.
posted by peppermind at 6:35 AM on November 8 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I've stopped wearing a poppy since the Harper Regime started with trumpeting all the militarism and glory of war crap. That sort of language surrounding Remembrance Day seems to have stuck. My personal theory is this is because all of the witnesses to WWI and most of the veterans of WWII are gone. I know for a fact that none of my relatives who fought in those wars wanted to talk about or dwell on them. They certainly didn't find any glory in war.
posted by fimbulvetr at 7:04 AM on November 8 [3 favorites]


Coercive patriotism is one of those things that is simultaneously meaningless and an act of aggression. The poppy is a meaningful gesture if you're wearing it because you sincerely want to commemorate the sacrifices of people who have served in the armed forces. It's meaningless if you're wearing it because it's the expected thing to do, and it's meaningful and awful if you're a member of a marginalized group who is being forced to wear as a gesture of subjection to the dominant ideology. And I guess that, to me, patriotism is like religion: something personal that is often best expressed privately. I'm not opposed to public displays of religiosity or patriotism, but you'd better be willing to acknowledge that there are other perspectives and that they're also valid.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:10 AM on November 8 [6 favorites]


My relatives who post poppy memes on FB are the same ones who post jingoistic right-wing garbage about immigration and carbon taxes. If the Legion really cared about the poppy as a symbol, they'd speak out against "Ontario Proud" and other fascist trash sites that are using it as a tool to spread propaganda.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 10:35 AM on November 8 [5 favorites]


Historically, the Royal Canadian Legion has been racist and conservative - you know, like most of Canada.

You know that is true but you do see it changing slowly (certainly very slowly in some communities). I live down the street from an old cemetery which has a handful of WWI and WWII grave sites. One of them is the grave of Pte Buckam Singh. Singh was "one of just nine Canadian Sikhs to fight in [WWI]" and his very unassuming grave is "the only known Canadian Sikh soldier's grave in existence". His story and grave were rediscovered about 10 years ago when an amateur historian stumbled upon his Victory Medal in a pawn shop. Since that time every year, there is always a nice service with many Sikh members of the Canadian Armed forces, members of the Indian community and locals who attend.
posted by Ashwagandha at 3:05 PM on November 8 [3 favorites]


Today I had a librarian in Minneapolis exert some pretty insistent peer pressure about taking my kindergartener over to the paper poppy-making station. My little dude was looking for books about vegetables, I just smiled and nodded (because I am Minnesotan, it is what we do), and the whole thing was weird.
posted by Maarika at 6:27 PM on November 8 [2 favorites]


Everyone should just listen to billiebee on this
posted by knapah at 3:54 PM on November 10


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