Sunday, November 9, 2014

Red Poppy in memory of those lost in past wars. White Poppy in memory of those lost, we stand for Peace

Graphic by Gloria Joe for the Manitoban, 2013

White Poppies for Peace - in the UK,  a nation that lost more than the US ever did in the Great War of WW I/II...

After World War part I, the Red Poppy became the symbol for Remembrance Day (Red Poppy Day) - a day of solemn remembrance of those who had served; those who were lost or injured in wars past.

In 1933, the White Poppies began to be worn.


The idea of decoupling Armistice Day, the red poppy and later Remembrance Day from their military culture dates back to 1926, just a few years after the British Legion was persuaded to try using the red poppy as a fundraising tool in Britain.

A member of the No More War Movement suggested that the British Legion should be asked to imprint 'No More War' in the centre of the red poppies instead of ‘Haig Fund’ and failing this pacifists should make their own flowers.

The details of any discussion with the British Legion are unknown but as the centre of the red poppy displayed the ‘Haig Fund’ imprint until 1994 it was clearly not successful. A few years later the idea was again discussed by the Co-operative Women's Guild. In 1933 the first white poppies appeared on Armistice Day (called Remembrance Day after World War Two). The white poppy was not intended as an insult to those who died in the First World War - a war in which many of the white poppy supporters lost husbands, brothers, sons and lovers - but a challenge to the continuing drive to war. The following year the newly founded Peace Pledge Union began widespread distribution of the poppies and their annual promotion.

The UK and those nations once part of the UK still hold Remembrance Day (the Sunday prior to Armistice Day) and for many days leading to and even after Armistice Day, November 11.

In the US,  I remember wearing Red Poppies as a child - we got them at school, in church (well, when my parents had control of such things as my attendance at their chosen church), and my mother always....ALWAYS had a red poppy in remembrance of her brother - her best childhood friend - lost in a bombing raid over Germany.  I was a post War Baby Boomer with uncles who served the Army, Navy and Air Force in the 2nd part of that horror called the World Wars; a father who helped design war planes flying over Germany, France, China, Japan and anywhere else they could bomb or strafe; and a grandfather who served in WWI.   A Baby Boomer - that somewhat "fallen from grace" group of aged Hippies. Yippies, Peace-niks and anarchists on the Left and bank presidents, 1%'ers and Wall Street shills on the Right with most falling into the aged working class (with screwy politics and even screwier values...or lack thereof).  We, as a group, were  raised under the constant threat of nuclear annihilation brought to us by our own government  [queue the theme music from "Manhattan"]

In the US, we call Armistice Day, Veteran's Day now - a holiday "celebrated" with a few parades, a few TV specials with flags waving and a line or two about Veterans; a few groups get together to offer breakfast, lunch or dinner to, donate clothing and goods for, shake a few hands of those who are veterans - we have some acknowledgement of those who lost their lives in past wars (a moment of silence led by a current president on the 11th hour of the 11th day...)  but all of it is interspersed with that holiday fare of beer, parties, shopping -can't forget all those Veteran's Day sales...

'Cuz you know, all those Vets gave their lives so we can buy shit.

The people in the US have made a few grand gestures for peace but few ever lasting more than a generation or two.  We even stopped a war but it took years of protest and screaming, sit-ins, marches, and Guerrilla theater, then 250,000 of us descended on Washington October 15, 1969, then, a month later, 500,000 to 1,000,000 of us descended on Washington joined by politicians from Congress, calling for a Moratorium, with even more actions for peace in smaller protests echoing around the nation (not bad for a nation of 202,676,946 in 1969 - and no corporate sponsors, FOX funds or Beckian Goldline scams) and even more echos in the UK , Australia and Canada.

500,000 to 1,000,000 descend on Washington in peaceful protest November 15, 1969

Some of us held hope for actual Peace in our lifetime.

Sadly, "Peace in our lifetime" was never going to happen - soon, those protests were forgotten, those marches disappeared and the Peace Movement got lost in the growing fear as mongered by the new boys club in town - the Neo-Cons both lite and dark - Reagan, Clinton, and Bush 1.

In the UK, they were forgotten with the neo-liberals - Thatcher, Major and Blair.

By Bush 2, the US was hell bent on revenge - revenge for fear, revenge for anger and revenge for 9/11.  80% of the nation decided we must go to war on Iraq - 20% of us wanted no part of slaughtering innocents and young men and women in uniform by American young men and women sent off to die for more money in the wallets of Wall Street and the MIC.

In the UK, Tony Blair worked with Bush to bring Europe into that same war - fear, anger and growing resentment were manipulated to promote nationalism and the newly coined "Islamophobia" across the 1st World..

Today, we stand after 11 years of on again, on again and more on again War.  Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Pakistan and nearly every other nation state through the Middle East is in turmoil - and our "friends" have been caught funding Al Qaeda and the more newly formed ISIS while claiming fealty to the West.

The US has just declared another front on the "War on a Noun."

How dumb was I?  How naive to believe we could actually see peace in my lifetime?

Bringing us back to Armistice Day, Remembrance Day, Veteran's Day, 2014 - the Red Poppies are pulled out once again.

This year we will include remembrance for the dead and soon to die in the latest fronts in foreign lands and wherever old men send young men and women to slaughter innocents and other young men and women in uniform.

In the UK, those believers in Peace will don White Poppies to honor those who have been lost and injured in wars and to stand for their pledge for peace.

In the US we may or may not wear poppies and there will still be those few parades, those breakfasts, lunches and dinners and those goods distributed to a few veterans in need;  there will be the obligatory moment of silence interrupting soap operas and game shows on the 11th hour; and there will still be those Veterans' Day Sales offered at malls and department stores, gun shops and shooting ranges; there will be the beer flowing, parties and raucous holiday activity....

This year, and every year after,  I ask that we, in the US working for peace on the planet, join with are brothers and sisters of the UK in wearing White Poppies for Peace....If you can't find one, make one and wear it all week.

As to seeing peace in my lifetime: 

It isn't "dumb" or "naive" to hold a belief in worldwide peace. We are but a mere blip in the history of mankind; no more than a nanosecond footprint to be washed away by the ocean waves of change and, like that ocean wave, we recede before we come crashing forward. Revolution is eternal - never-ending. What we do now can reverberate through the history of man and grow exponentially...One must BE the change to create the change and understand we may never actually witness that change fully realized as the gnat we are, but only as the star dust we will forever be.

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