My Grandad fought in the Second World War. We're not a military family, he was conscripted. For that reason I donate to the British Legion fund, yet each year I'm conflicted about wearing my poppy with pride. Of what am I supposed to be proud, that we send our troops to fight in foreign lands I can't even place on a map, that there are men and women prepared to kill and be killed at the behest of halfwits like Tony Blair, or that my poor late Grandad was sent to be terrified in the face of a dictator who wanted to establish a European Union called The Third Reich? As adulthood has dawned on me all of these reasons feel hollow. I only wear one out of habit these days. That and a deep sense of sadness that there are people whose belief in the concept of our nation has led them on a path to physical and mental injury.
Born in the 70's I grew up in the 80's and 90's thinking this country stood for something good. We were on the side of "freedom" and "democracy". I thought the only problem we had was Thatcher. Then this problem morphed into "the Evil Tories" and, finally, it was solved when The Labour Party were elected. Then of course it wasn't.
|Let's bomb Iraq. That way things can only get better!|
While at school I remember talking some of my friends out of joining the army. Even so, as with a lot of rough working class schools, there were a large number who ignored me and joined anyway. Most of them were under the impression that a "proper war" was unlikely. I recall one of them honestly seemed to think his job would mainly involve helping people. The sense of helplessness when protesting against Blair's Iraq war was magnified by the fact I'd lost touch with a lot of these people and so imagined them as teenagers about to be herded unnecessarily into a war zone.
Recently I watched a profile of Lucy Aldridge on Sky News, mother of the youngest dead soldier from the Afghanistan campaign which Her Majesty's Government waged simultaneously. That was a war I supported at the time. She now wants an inquiry into how the conflict was handled. Without question I agree with that.
The report jumped out at me when she points to a beret he'd had as a kid, "he was 12 when he joined cadets, so that's very special to me". Six years later he was dead. There's nothing in the world that can make that seem ok and I can't imagine what it must be like for her. Our troops are now returning from Afghanistan, few believe they have achieved victory, either there or in Iraq. What an awful mess.
That's why I have bought a white poppy this year. It sits alongside the red one. I can't think of any other way to make it clear that this business is not ok. This is not a situation I'm comfortable with. This is not an arrangement I feel we should be forced to pay for via taxation. It's wrong. We all know it's wrong. It's got to stop.
|Peace, not war.|
Part of the problem is the fact our country relies upon the arms trade. That's got to stop.
The other side of the problem is the people of the UK have no say in who or why we attack bomb and kill. That seems insane when you recall that it's our taxes which fund it. One reason why I advocate referendum before war.
Until that's sorted, an unavoidable part of the problem is that people join the army. Please, stop.
There's an interview with Dr Pete Yeandle about White Poppies here. It starts 7 minutes in.