White poppy outrage invented by Sun News, exploited by the unscrupulous
I started this column thinking to wear a red poppy and white poppy on Nov. 11, but after talking to veterans and Beacon readers I’ve decided to go traditional. A red poppy it is.
Why? I think the better question is, Why not a white poppy?
I sympathize with white poppy wearers. War is evil and malignant and should be avoided at all cost, and yet the drums of war are constantly being thumped by people who seem to like war and the military and getting involved in foreign entanglements at every opportunity. Canadians may not be as martial as our neighbours to the south, who have been at war most years since 1776, but we have our own tribe of drum thumpers to be vigilant about.
To me, the white poppy symbolizes that vigilance. For me, the white poppy is the yin to the red poppy’s yang. Red for remembrance of service to one’s country, sometimes the ultimate sacrifice, and white as a push back against the forces of militarism.
I could happily have worn red on one breast, white on the other, except for one thing: The number of people whose opinion I respected who were adamant white was inappropriate for Remembrance Day. This puzzled me. Why such strong feelings?
One opinion that left me cold was the fatuous tweet of minor TV celeb and man-about-town W. Brett Wilson that was making the social media rounds. “To the @WhitePoppy movement – be clear – the #RedPoppy does not glorify war nor does the #YellowDaffodil glorify cancer. #RespectOurVeterans,” he wrote.
While there may be isolated incidents of disrespect for veterans or the mistaken belief that the red poppy glorifies war, they are few and far between. White poppies have been around almost as long as red poppies. Back in the 1930s they were adopted by pacifists, nice folks who just don’t appreciate the horrors of war.
But the recent “white poppy campaign” outrage was ginned up by the muckrakers at Sun News, which ran a story about University of Ottawa students, variously described as a “handful” or a “gaggle,” trying to make a point about modern militarism, as crazy, free-thinking college kids are wont to do.
Check out the Twitter hashtag #whitepoppy. Mostly teeth gnashing Sun readers and a sprinkling of polite white poppy supporters patiently explaining their position, but not dissing the red poppy. And the so-called Canadian “campaign” or “movement” couldn’t even get organized enough to put up a Facebook page, de rigueur for modern activists.
Wilson’s tweet does nothing but exploit the Sun “news” to boost his own Klout score. Rather tawdry, really.
There is no white poppy campaign. I doubt most Canadians would even know where to buy one. This is just another dumb Sun public relations stunt.
Still, plenty of Beacon readers seem upset about the prospect of white poppies pushing out the red, so I turned to Dan Audet, a veteran living in Edmonton, for his take.
“To me, any who try to make Remembrance Day…into a symbol of something other than a day of memory are destroying the intent of this day,” he said during an interview.
I asked him if adding a white poppy to the Remembrance Day celebrations would dilute their purpose.
“The day is already designated to a message. If you send more messages, you dilute that message,” he replied.
“Their (white poppy proponent’s) message is a valuable one…but it, to me, is disrespectful of the reason we have a day to remember in the first place. It’s inappropriate. The poppies in Flanders are red, not white. On a different day, perhaps. On Remembrance Day? No. Not ever.”
Respect, for the tradition of Remembrance Day and for the memories of those who have served their country. One could argue with Dan, but what’s the point?
Today I will wear a red poppy. The white poppy can wait for the International Day of Peace on Sept. 21.
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