With Nov. 11 being Remembrance Day here in the U.K., there have been several movements to replace the historic red poppy with a white alternative.
The red poppy has been worn since 1921 as a sign of remembrance for all military personnel who lost their lives in the war. All proceeds from buying the artificial poppies or donations to the appeal go to The Royal British Legion, a charity which provides financial, social and emotional support to members and veterans of the British Armed Forces, their families and their dependents. The appeal is accompanied by Remembrance events, such as Remembrance Sunday. On the British Legion’s website, the poppy is said to not be a symbol of death or support for the war, however an increasing number of people are now choosing to wear the poppy despite its distinction from negative connotations.
The white poppy has gained considerable attention in recent years. It was introduced in 1926 shortly after the introduction of the red poppy, by pacifists of the No War Movement. Today, pacifist groups such as Anglican Pacifist Fellowship also support the movement. On the Peace Pledge Union’s website, the white poppy is said to represent three things: remembrance for all victims of war, a commitment to peace and challenging attempts to glamorize or celebrate the war. Remembrance includes victims of all war (even those currently being fought), all nationalities, contrasting to the red poppy’s focus on Britain and all levels of victims, ranging from civilian to soldier.
Some would argue that the white poppy better portrays the idea of unity, rather than the nationalist attitude of prioritizing British lives. This can improve the mindset of ignorance, that only British soldiers died in the war, when on the contrary only 20% of Allied deaths were British in World War 1. It is also to remind us that not all victims of war are soldiers and that the effects of war can be devastating and far reaching to more than just those on the battle field, including people displaced from their homes and families and those caught in the middle of cross fire. The effect of this is to realize the massively consequential and devastating effects of war, which leads to the next point of standing up for peace. The white poppy overtakes the red poppy in not only remembering war, but working to prevent it through the remembrance, as the best way to respect victims of war is to prevent it. Supporters of the white poppy argue a temporary cease fire of the two minute silence is not enough. Stopping promoting militaristic values, seen by the juxtaposition of companies such as Lockheed Martin that sponsor Remembrance Day events whilst being one of the biggest manufacturers of Trident nuclear weapons.
The rise in popularity of the white poppy may reflect the changing climate towards pacifism, promising hope for the future, whilst critics argue it undermines remembrance. Which poppy will you be wearing on Sunday?