“War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The ugliest is a person who thinks nothing is worth fighting and dying for and lets others better and braver protect him.” – General Rick Hillier
The days leading up to Remembrance Day are always rife with controversy over wearing a poppy. I thought I would add my thoughts to the discussion.
Every year, for about 10 days, there are poppy boxes scattered across Canada. At every Tim Horton’s, at every legion and every mall one can find the small felt flowers that we pin on our chest in remembrance of those who kept our country free. The money raised from the sale of the poppies is put in trust to provide assistance to veterans and their families. The trust provides everything from comforts for hospitalized veterans (including reading material and toiletries) to providing services to widows of veterans. After my great-uncle’s passing, the Canadian Legion ensured that my great-aunt always had a ride somewhere if it was needed, that her snow was always shoveled and the grass was mowed. This is all funded by the generosity of Canadians who appreciate the immense sacrifices made by the ‘Greatest Generation’, and the sacrifices made by our generation during combat operations in Afghanistan.
This should be apolitical, and serve not as an endorsement of Canada’s foreign policy, but as a simple gesture that we will not forget those who sacrificed so much for us. Yet, every year, I talk to someone who refuses to wear a poppy. They launch into an impassioned, ignorant diatribe against, among other things, Western imperialism, Stephen Harper, George Bush and the military-industrial complex. They complain that we are currently at war with a religion. They say these small felt flowers serve as a grand endorsement of current conflicts. They say that it perpetuates some nationalist narrative.
It certainly does promote a nationalist narrative. It promotes pride in a country that went above and beyond when every democracy in the world was threatened. It promotes pride in a country that helped stop the forces of fascism, racism and bigotry. It promotes pride in a country that helped stop one of the largest and most organized genocides in history. It promotes pride in a country that acted with valour and pride in a number of peacekeeping conflicts; that helped to prevent the murder of millions more civilians. It promotes pride in a country that instills a strong morality in its children, such that tens of thousands still willingly serve to protect it.
The country that exists today is in no small part due to the sacrifices of some 115,000 soldiers killed, and countless more physically and emotionally wounded. These men and women sacrificed to protect the freedoms that we all take for granted. And those who eagerly decry the military and the sacrifices made cite these freedoms as they protest. Yes, I concede, it is within their rights to hate those who made them free – and, perhaps, this is what makes this country so great.
However, for the memory of the dead, the wounded and the families, I would beg you: for ten days a year, put the politics aside. Wear a poppy and wear it with pride, pride for a country that allows you to shame its bravest citizens. Wear it for a country that is ‘Strong and Free’ because of the sacrifices made in the past. Wear it for the man who every November 11th dons a jacket adorned with medals and cries for brothers who rest below the crosses, row on row.
Dave Jones is in his 3rd year of Economics and Political Science. He remembers those who have gone before by serving in the Canadian Forces Primary Reserves.