What would Gandhi have done in Poland or Germany if he were faced with the advance of the Third Reich and witness to the holocaust?
Perhaps, in protest, he would have joined a line up of Jewish people waiting to board a train to Auschwitz. Would you have the courage to make that sacrifice? Would I?
That is why I oppose war and refuse to wear a symbol that justifies and glorifies it. While I’m glad that I don’t live in a country ruled by Nazis and I don’t have to protest observations of the glory of the Third Reich under penalty of death or imprisonment, I do insist on exercising my freedom by not honouring the fictitious efficacy of military solutions that divide humanity rather than renew it.
As you might imagine, the comment thread on this article is long. Happily, it’s also articulate. A couple of people dissect Mr. McLeod’s argument better than I can:
The poppy does not symbolize war. It is not a medal or a flag. Not everyone who died on the battlefield believed in what they were dying for. The poppy stands alone, away from the political and economic justifications for war. It is a symbol of remembrance.
And even better:
War is what happens when world leaders blunder headlong into crises. This is why a free press is so vitally important to a free and enlightened society — to peace.
The blood red poppy is a cry of anguish for what was lost — not a howl of triumph for something supposedly gained. I observe Remembrance Day each year, and wear the poppy, to remember that lesson. You know: “Lest We Forget.”
Mr. McLeod, wearing the poppy isn’t about nationalism, it’s about remembering and honouring sacrifice. Your Ghandi example is foolhardy, because while the sacrifice of the Jewish people was mighty, the sacrifice of voluntary soldiers who died was greater still. They went willingingly to the fight and their death, to win freedom for those who couldn’t. You can be certain, Mr. McLeod, that had no one opposed the Nazis with the warfare you disdain, that today the European Jew would be as rare as the snow leopard.
I wear the poppy for my great-uncle, whose grave is in Kiel, Germany. I also wear it for the three or four hundred men lying next to him. Most of all, I wear it because I’m free to do so, just as you are free not to. My great uncle and millions of men like him helped win us those rights, and they deserve your respect.