Last year I included a note about the great poppy debate in a blog post. I first heard about white poppies through a BBC article in 2006, and also from DaveO, who does an amazing White Poppies series on his podcast year-round.
Both red and white are the colour of the poppy, and if you’ve read the poem In Flanders Fields, you know they grew, between the crosses row on row (however I would bet even the white ones were red during those WWI years).
Some say the this traditional red symbol that we pin to our lapel for the month of November glorifies war and sacrifice and we should change the colour to white – in support of peace.
The White Poppy symbolises the belief that there are better ways to resolve conflicts than killing strangers. Our work, primarily educational, draws attention to many of our social values and habits which make continuing violence a likely outcome. [White Poppies for Peace]
On the flip side, there are groups that are so outraged they would like to see the white poppy banned.
The Legion is claiming the white poppy campaign is illegal because it infringes on their trademark symbol. The veterans’ organization says it turns their symbol of sacrifice into a political position. [Edmonton – 2006]
With an overall general sentiment of remembrance, organizations argue that it should be entirely acceptable to wear alternate symbols and even have alternative ceremonies on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month (ie. placing wreaths of white poppies at cenotaphs across the nation).
“For many people the red poppy has become a symbol that is being used to justify and promote war,” explains Claire Hurtig, a local activist and union organizer in Montreal. “The white poppy is an alternative way to remember war, but also to protest war as an institution in our society, [especially] as the Conservative government is putting more and more money into the military and not into social programs, leading to hugely detrimental impacts on our society.” [Hour.ca]
I think everyone has their own way in which they commemorate historic, tragic, and heroic events.