Quotulatiousness

November 11, 2017

QotD: Wearing the Red Poppy

Filed under: Britain, History, Quotations — Tags: — Nicholas @ 01:00

One hundred years is a short period in history but a long one in human lives and memories. It marks a point when perspective is gained on tragic events: for one, thing no-one who participated in them is still alive. Perspective changes meaning and alters commemoration. It took, for example, white Southerners that long to stop voting Democrat because Abraham Lincoln had been a Republican. Today in Spain we see the quiet rise of memorials for the losses of the Spanish Civil War. Time takes its toll of grievances and opens new avenues of generous remembrance.

Perhaps that’s it. The very length of time since the original Armistice – the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918 – is the reason we still wear red poppies. The conflicting emotions that originally surrounded remembrance – the grief, the survivors’ guilt, the sense of waste and futility, the bitterness of victory – have all washed away. That leaves us with an awareness of a loss we cannot fully feel, and will thankfully never have to. But it’s a loss we can and must acknowledge.

It is a very British thing, the red poppy: a non-militaristic and utterly unexultant commemoration of the need for military force despite the costs. And it has a typically British origin in being multinational; its current form came into being when Earl Haig adopted a French woman’s design that copied an original red silk poppy created by an American woman inspired by a Canadian war poet’s elegy “Flanders Field”.

The poppy has in it the stoicism of the Londoners facing the Blitz – “London can take it”. We wear it to renew our individual and collective belief that Britain can take it.

John McTernan, “Does Jeremy Corbyn have any idea what Poppy Day is about?”, The Telegraph, 2015-10-22.

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