White poppies were first distributed in 1933 by the Peace Pledge Union (PPU) and are intended as a challenge to the ‘continuing drive to war’. In my recent post on Syria I quoted the founder of Christian Peacemaker Teams saying
“What would happen if Christians devoted the same discipline and self-sacrifice to nonviolent peacemaking that armies devote to war?”
For me, the White Poppy is a public reminder of that question. It’s a challenge to our desire for oil and minerals; power and control; safety based on subjugation; that means that we still send our men and women to foreign soil to kill and be killed. I am not a pacifist, but I want to pursue peace: Tenaciously. Relentlessly. In all its forms.
As the Peace Pledge Union website says White Poppies are not ‘intended as an insult’ to those who died. After all, many of the earliest wearers of white poppies in the mid 1930s had lost sons, fathers, husbands and brothers during World War I.
Yet to wear only a white poppy does risk that perceived insult. It risks implying a ‘holier-than-thou’ criticism to those that wear red poppies with great integrity and respect. By wearing white poppies I may appear to be saying that red poppy wearers are war mongers somehow glorifying conflict and this is unlikely to be the case. White only risks a building rather than a dismantling of barriers between people within the UK.
Although I don’t see a huge number of people wearing poppies of any colour around Leamington I am always humbled and encouraged by the communal displays of respect and remembrance at sporting events and services up and down the land. I would not for a minute want to undermine that shared experience – a nation coming together, aware for a moment of its own history and the horror that generations before us have endured.
So this November I’ll wear a red poppy and a white poppy. One a symbol of solidarity, mourning and remembrance. The other a statement of self examination, belief that we can change and the shared challenge of pursuing peace at every level of human interaction.
Thank you to those of you that commented on my previous Poppy Day post ‘Thank God it wasn’t me’ which prompted this year’s blog.