I wear a poppy to commemorate the deaths of those who fought so some people could choose NOT to wear one

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November 10, 2014 by Paul Goldsmith

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Every year I find myself having to explain to people why I believe that Remembrance Sunday is a day for pacifists, not, as they argue, a day that glorifies war. This year even more so, as the wonderful display of ceramic poppies outside the Tower of London reminds us of the sacrifices that were made by so many people in order that we might remain a free people.

Depressingly, every year now the same displays of dissent appear. People don’t want to wear poppies, or, worse, people attacking those who are taking donations for poppies. Yet this year I have found myself really thinking about some of the arguments that those who won’t wear a poppy are using. As I have always said, we live in a free democracy, and we shouldn’t enforce a conformity of opinion on anyone.

The idea of Remembrance Sunday was originally to commemorate the deaths of those who fought for us in the First and Second World Wars. As a Jew, I am keenly aware that the reason I live in the country I do, with people of different colours, faiths, sexuality, cultures etc is because some men and women fought in these wars. I also believe that the poppy is a reminder of the barbarity of war and a reminder of why we should always be extremely careful before we take part in any.

However, as James McLean, a footballer for Wigan, has explained in a letter to his Chairman this week explaining why he won’t wear an embroidered poppy on his shirt, Remembrance Sunday now remembers all soldiers killed, not just in the World Wars, but in other conflicts since then. In his particular case, he feels it would be an insult to those that died on Bloody Sunday in 1972 to wear a poppy. He makes it clear that if it were just about the a World Wars, he would wear it, but it isn’t.

Others talk of the last 13 years in which we have sent soldiers in foreign countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq, with the attendant chaos that ensued. They are uncomfortable with wearing something that commemorates our involvement in those invasions.

I think in the end, one of the reasons the World Wars are so important is that they allowed us to be free to express our opinions. The calls for TV presenters to be sacked if they won’t wear a poppy miss the point entirely. My personal view is that I wear a poppy, and will always wear one because I literally wouldn’t be here had the Holocaust continued. I also wear one to remember how important it is that we don’t allow further conflicts like that to develop.

But those people died also so that we might have a country where people can choose not to wear one.

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