By Leonoor Van Kersbergen
“In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row”
You might have seen them around: the Poppy flowers. The red artificial flowers on lapels of coats and jackets have acted as a symbol for the commemoration of the military personnel who have died in the First World War. It been done for almost a hundred years. The poppy was the only flower that grew in the battle-scarred fields of northern France and Flanders during WWI, thus when Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae wrote the stanza above as part of the famous poem “In Flanders Fields”, the poppy was accepted as a national symbol of remembrance of the fallen.
Even though today the flowers are mostly worn by the British, the idea of selling poppies to raise funds for ex-soldiers was American. It was the American secretary Moina Michael who started selling the national emblem in 1920. The UK followed only a year later. Nowadays in the US, the sight of them has diminished around the armistice anniversary. The 11th day of November is known as Veterans Day, when a more common adornment on the lapel is a red, white and blue ribbon. But there are some poppies laid and worn for Memorial Day in May, in parts of the US. Nowadays, however, the appeal of the poppy does not gather a unanimous audience. Especially in the UK not everyone is “pro-poppy”, as some say that the poppy is forced on them by peer- and public pressure. The issue has been discussed for many years, so when the famous news reporter Jon Snow refused to wear the poppy on national television, underlying criticisms resurfaced. People claim that the Poppy Appeal has gone too far and that the cultural pressure to wear a poppy is now so great that we are witnessing what Jon Snow described as ‘poppy fascism’. “Wearing the flower is no longer a free choice; it’s a stifling requirement,” the independent says. Lastly, pacifists have a strong opinion in the social media. Most do mourn those that died in wars; they simply refuse to donate to an appeal that they perceive to glorify war.
After reading, and hopefully understanding both views, it is now up to you to decide whether a poppy should be worn or not.
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