Anti-war arguments against observing the holiday is not an appropriate or parallel point
By Evelynn Sutton, Contributor
November has started and so has poppy season. The poppy was chosen as a symbol for the remembrance of veterans because, according to the Legion (a veteran’s organization), during the Napoleonic Wars in the 19th century, the soils of the fields of battle became rich in lime—creating the ideal conditions for poppies to grow. The fields where soldiers fought and died became richly covered in the flowers, and such an image became John McCrae’s inspiration for his famous poem “In Flanders Field.” Apt as a symbol for such loss and grieving, we still wear poppies today—or at least, most of us do.
Many argue that wearing the poppy actually presents problems, as it is described as a symbol of being “pro-war” and “pro-violence.” This stance on the poppy and observing Remembrance Day is not a new, but it is a confusing one. How could a meaningful and mournful day, one which simply pays respect for those who have died and suffered, become so contorted?
Arguments against the day start with ideas like one written in a blog post for the Huffington Post, with the writer stating that they feel that it symbolizes and gratifies military action in general. Another writer, in an article for the Tyee, writes a similar sentiment—stating that they will not wear the poppy because they want to denounce the use of military force. Yet both articles acknowledge that veterans should be respected for fighting and dying in wars they weren’t necessarily interested in participating, and that the sentimental and respectful aspect of the holiday is a worthwhile one.
Remembrance Day has never been about being pro-war though—the holiday has always been strictly about paying our respects and reflecting on the importance of history to help us navigate the present better. Essentially every Remembrance Day assembly can be likened to a funeral—it is a mournful event with the main focus of respect and reflection. On several pages of the Legion’s website, it is mentioned that Remembrance Day is about remembering Canada’s fallen. It is about remembering those who died protecting our country from looming threats to people’s freedoms.
If the day had a pro-war agenda, the assemblies would be used as an opportunity to conscript people, and surely, the event would have soldiers speaking of their wonderful experiences in the military in hopes of influencing people to join… yet this does not happen. The claim that Remembrance Day is pro-war is insulting because that implies that the day is about anything aside from grief. Trying to argue about politics on a day that is not about politics is inconsiderate and in bad taste.
There is certainly a selection of issues with the military, but why insult fallen soldiers by taking attention away from the message of the day which is only meant to discuss and mourn their sacrifice? Soldiers in the war were conscripted against their will and were victims of the system anti-war advocates criticize. It would make more logical sense for anti-war advocates to be at the frontlines of respect for the lives lost in the war because the suffering veterans endured is exactly why they are against war. If one agrees that it is important to remember those who were forced to died in a horrible and unavoidable war, then they agree that Remembrance Day has important significance.
The writers of the articles also mention that Remembrance Day uses words like “freedom” to justify and glorify war efforts. And while it is true that it is still up to debate whether or not current military actions are necessary for freedom, it is unrefutably true that in World War II, military action was unavoidable in dealing with the Nazis.
Many argue that peace should have been used instead, but peace was tried instead. The infamous Munich Agreement has been viewed as one of the least successful appeasement tactics in history. The dispute was settled—against the wishes of the Czechoslovakian government—by essentially giving Germany portions of Czechoslovakia in exchange for the cessation of Nazi territorial claims. The agreement was lauded as saving the world from war as the Germans had stated they would cease their expansion if their Czechoslovakian annex was approved. The Germans didn’t stop, however. Hitler took the rest of the country a few months later and then started World War II half-a-year after that—so saying that veterans fought for your freedom is a correct and thoroughly justified sentiment.
Not observing Remembrance Day because you are anti-war is like not partaking in Anti-Bullying Day because you hate bullies. It is a complete misunderstanding about the meaning of the day. Remembrance Day is about respect and mourning—there is no other meaning. Any other ideas about what the day is about are misconceptions. The holiday is not a day that one should have a stance on, because there should only be one way of thinking about such widespread terrible grief and loss.