It’s time for poppies

One thing about being sick, you get the chance to get caught up on television watching. I have been binging on BBC iPlayer documentaries recently as a general principle, but being sick meant I expanded my watching into other genres such as comedy and variety. So it was in this, pathetically sick, mode that I found myself watching Johnny Depp on the Graham Norton show the other day. And Johnny came out wearing a paper poppy, and I was annoyed. As annoyed as I was a few years ago when I was in a choir that happened to be singing at a service on 11/11, and a person with a box full of poppies came around and affixed one to every member of the choir, lest the chapel dare be seen on the day without the ritual red fake flower on every chest.

Now let me be clear, before the trolls start screaming: I am a granddaughter of a veteran of WWII, a good friend of an injured Viet Nam vet, and I generally believe in the importance of respect for our veterans. I have even been known to buy a poppy from a sweet elderly man in the local shopping mall, and then put it in my bag “to affix to my lapel later”. So I give ££ to the campaign yearly, sometimes buying two poppies (I am a sucker for cute elderly people collecting money for good causes) but I do object to the compulsory nature of wearing the thing. It’s in television where I first noticed it, and thus the Johnny Depp comments. Some producer back behind the scenes of the show has a stash of poppies ready to affix to the clothes of all celebrities, because this is the time of year when you can not appear on the telly without one–just as the choir members could not sing in the chapel without one. Newscasters, political figures, all sheep-like in this display of poppy pride. Johnny Depp is not even British; this is not his traditional observation for the 11th November (which is Veterans Day in the US as well) but something forced upon visitors by the locals. When something gets to this point of cultural compulsion, it is no longer a serious piece of symbolism. It’s a decoration lacking in deep regard.

I am, of course, not the only person to feel this way, and I was reminded of this when an eloquent article on the subject found its way across my twitter feed yesterday. And yes, we are back to the second glamorous part of being sick: not only do I catch up on television, but I spend far longer than usual dinging around on the internet social networking sites. Yay me. The excitement, it’s never ending. And hey, I have time to blog as well! Too bad about the cough… but seriously… I’m sure there’s no turning back on this one, no politician or newscaster wants to become the one who refused to wear the poppy. No one wants to speak out about how perhaps we might re-consider the value of the symbol by removing its ubiquity. I will continue to carry out my own little protest, and continue to donate to a number of lovely vets in the shopping mall near my home but not wear the poppy on my lapel.

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10 responses to “It’s time for poppies

  1. Yes, it is a cultural compulsion, for sure. (Although some Brits may argue that “Have a nice day” is irritating and false in a similar way?)

    Don’t forget to mention the (appropriate) hoopla last year when it wasn’t just paper poppies that tv presenters/celebrities were wearing, but jewel-encrusted, designer poppies. That really highlighted that it’s not “think about the vets”, but rather “look at me [thinking about the vets, presumably]”. I think the Brits themselves accept the understated yet social-pressure of the poppies, but did see the bastardization of making it blatantly about the individual by being so, well, individual.

  2. Poppy wearing was started by an American after WWI based on a poem by a Canadian military physician. 🙂

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-15637074

    • I knew someone would bring that up! But it’s not a THING in the US the way it is in Britain now. And I wrote this before the outrage about the Fifa decision to not let the England players wear them in the match Saturday erupted!

      • I don’t understand FIFA’s decision. The teams allowed to wear sponsors logos and black bands for deaths, but not poppies.

        As for the US, its hard to know when something is a stat holiday (ie day off) or not as it varies all the time.

  3. All the more reason I like the Channel 4 news… Jon Snow still refuses to wear the poppy because of what he calls ‘poppy fascism’, although he does where them when he’s not on air. I think the pressure to put one on in media situations is completely over the top and devalues its message.

  4. No poppies here, we prefer to ignore the holiday completely. We’re in a war?

    On that note – you should check out Lisa Ling’s Our America on OWN if you can. Amazing documentaries, cried my way through one on PTSD this morning.

    Feel better!

  5. I like the white poppy movement, for a change. http://www.ppu.org.uk/whitepoppy/index.html

  6. Oh it’s been one of those days – I was just about to send you the thought-provoking article I read the other day concerning this subject and thought it best to check your highlighted article first. Lo and behold, they are the very same one. A moment of major embarrassment averted. I am with you on this one. I don’t think anyone thinks about it any more, it’s just another social nicety to observe. Cultural compulsion is an interesting subject – you’ve got me on the lookout for it now! Hope you feel better soon 😉

  7. Vlad the Emailer

    I liked Depp wearing the poppy – it showed a proper respect for local feelings. It’s hard to believe he was FORCED to wear one

  8. As a Brit, with a public role as an Anglican Minister, I feel the pressure very strongly, especially as this year it feels more politicised than ever. It feels somehow disingenuous. I’ve tried this year to follow a policy of both red and white poppies, or not at all. No negative comments yet on Friday with both (and 300 attending an open air Act of Remembrance) or neither (today). It’s just reassuring to find other like-minded sceptics!

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