Depending on the year, sometimes I buy a poppy and sometimes I don’t. I guess it has something to do with what message I feel I’m sending by wearing one. This year, I’ve decided not to buy one — even though I would be wearing it in remembrance of the horrors of war and the tragic losses of thousands of young men and women in battle, it seems the perception is that a poppy indicates support for Canadian military operations overseas.
As a pacifist this is unacceptable to me, but I would still like to honour the victims of war. Thanks to the white poppies for peace — if I can find them in Toronto — I suppose now I can.
However, distribution of the white poppies in Canada doesn’t sit well with some veterans’ affairs groups. The Legion is also upset, worried that the traditional red poppy is undermined by another poppy. It has even threatened legal action, claiming any depiction of a poppy is a registered mark of the Legion.
“I’ve had nasty calls from veterans. I’ve been harassed,” Marya Nyland of the international peace organization Women in Black told the Globe and Mail. “They feel that the red poppy should be it. Why shouldn’t there be room for both?”
Harvey Shevalier, a regional president with the Royal Canadian Legion, told the Globe and Mail that Nov. 11 should not be politicized, which is what he says supporters of the white poppy are doing.
Unfortunately, politicization of the red poppies happened long before the arrival of the white poppies. When someone criticizes those who don’t wear poppies, no matter the reasons, the red poppy becomes political. When people feel obliged to wear red poppies because it’s the right thing to do, even if it implies something they don’t support, the poppies are politicized. The very semiotics of the poppy are political.
War is a complicated thing, and there should be more than one way to remember our fallen soldiers while recognizing that peace is the ultimate goal. The white poppy seems like a good way to do that.