Thursday, November 11, 2010

Lest We Forget

...and Support Our Troops?

I don't want to be as controversial as to say that I don't support our troops. As complicated as it would be, I want to live in a world without war, thus I'm reluctant to "support the troops" because I don't support war. This leads me to my dilemma today, Remembrance Day. I remember the assemblies in elementary school each year on November 11th, and how my teachers expressed the importance of being thankful for the soldiers that put their lives on the line for my freedom, and those assemblies made me very emotional. What I don't remember, however, is my teachers mentioning that Remembrance Day is also a day to support the troops.  Is that what teachers are saying now? An advertisement I heard on the radio encourages Canadians to wear a poppy (though it sounds distinctly like puppy) this November to remember those who served our country, and those currently serving.

To me, this is a day to remember the sacrifices veterans made for our freedom. But I am not of the opinion that the war in Afghanistan is related to my freedom (or anyone else's for that matter). If people want to show their support for the troops on Remembrance Day, that's fine, but that's not my aim. My dilemma is the Poppy: do I wear one to show my remembrance of lives lost? Or not wear one because of my objection to current conflicts around the world? The latter won out simply because I could not reconcile these concerns. And I feel bad today, though I took the minute of silence, I am Poppy-less. I feel like a bad Canadian.

Today I stumbled upon two articles, one from, the other from The National Post, that offer a solution: white poppies. This symbol "isn't meant to act as competition, but as an alternative effort to mark Remembrance Day - a symbolic gesture to remember fallen soldiers and an opportunity to send an anti-war message." Perfect! This so completely expresses how I feel about Remembrance Day, but unfortunately (though not surprisingly) it has upset many veterans who find it disrespectful. While I can understand that standpoint, my opinion is that the white poppy is a way for those who oppose war to respectfully honour the lives lost during war, and stand up with veterans, not against them.  

Another appealing aspect of the white poppy campaign is that it was started by women. The article quotes Claire Hurtig, a local activist and union organizer in Montreal, who says, "It is particularly important to note that it is women who started this campaign because not only soldiers die in wars, it is also civilians, particularly women, who suffer greatly in times of war." I have always been interested in how war really affects women, as opposed to how they are portrayed in war films as the "woe is me" wife/girlfriend of a soldier abroad (ahem, Pearl Harbour, I'm looking at you). 

One flaw in this solution is that the proceeds from white poppies go to peace organizations instead of to veterans. While I am fine with supporting peace organizations I also think that supporting veterans is still important, even while advocating against war. 

So perhaps next year I will buy and wear a white poppy, but put my toonie in the Salvation Army red poppy box as well. Or maybe I'll wear both poppies? I think they look quite nice together. Ask me on 11/11/11.