In November; politicians, television presenters and footballers alike all don a poppy as an act of remembrance for those who fought in past wars on behalf of this country. This acts as a symbol of showing to your fellow Brits that you are remembering the efforts of past servicemen and women in past wars, the sales of poppies also fund armed forces charities. This is obviously an incredibly important tradition that Britain partakes in and for many the wearing of the poppy up until Remembrance Day on the 11th of November holds great personal significance.
However, the poppy is losing its intended meaning. No longer is it a personal, individual act of reflection and remembrance, but an outward image that you are remembering, often more than anyone other. Poppy wearing mixed with professional offence taking is quickly becoming the national sport of November.
Recently the England Cricket team travelled to Australia for this winter’s Ashes series. The cricket hopes and dreams of the nation boarded the 24-hour flight to Perth, donning freshly tailored suits with the remembrance poppy in the lapel. After landing they were beckoned into a room and a squad photo was taken. All the players had their poppy on, but one; Moeen Ali.
Mr Ali whilst being a star all-rounder is also a practicing Muslim and has made many pilgrimages to Mecca. This caused right-wing twitter loudmouths to launch a barrage of Islamophobic tweets about how he wasn’t fit to play for England if he refused to remember Britain’s fallen. The eager eyed followers of the team would have noticed that upon landing in Perth, Mr Ali was actually wearing a poppy, simple deduction would suggest that in between photos being taken it had just fallen off.
This wasn’t the first poppy controversy and there are likely to be more in the future. Just last year the FA were in trouble for fielding the England football team with poppies on their jersey as this goes against FIFA rules on political statements and sponsors. This was of course nonsense. There is very little political about the poppy; the political parties all wear them and very rarely do you hear of actual political meaning of the poppy other than remembrance.
The amount of anger directed at FIFA was far greater than it probably deserved, and the anger wasn’t that the FA would receive a fine for fielding the poppy, but that the act of showing remembrance was being hindered in the ultimate competition of respect.
Recent research conducted by Consumer Intelligence, a research organisation, suggested that 1-in-3 people should be forced to wear the poppy. At this point, one has to ask: ‘Does the poppy still have the same meaning as it once had?’ It doesn’t seem to.
Those who dare dissent against the poppy wearing norm now apparently hate the acts of bravery given by the soldiers of the past and present. Yet those same people who demand the nation wear a poppy are the same that 20 seconds into the two-minute silence will pick up their phone and use it as a quiet moment to scroll down Facebook, liking posts that come with the caption ‘one like equals one respect’.
The reality is the poppy has been hijacked as the easy self-assuring way of opting out of any actual remembrance. By wearing the poppy, many therefore assume they have done remembrance, but in reality, they haven’t come close.
Pictures of the Royal family laying poppy wreaths at the cenotaph will come onto television screen and those who express to their friends on Facebook how proud they are of Britain's Armed Forces will reach for the remote and change the channel.
As the poppy wearing gets more elaborate, from wearing it on the lapel, to wearing a full poppy suit as worn at Leicester’s home match against Everton last week, remember that everyone can show their respect in different ways; it is not a competition.
Some will travel to war memorials, others will be in the supermarket at 11am the beginning of the silence, either way, being in one place does not make a person more patriotic. Don’t use the two-minute silence to try and show everyone up for likes, use it to show respect that Britain’s servicemen and women deserve.