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Why I Didn't Wear A Poppy This Remembrance Day

11/11/2014 05:42 EST | Updated 01/11/2015 05:59 EST
Gail Shotlander via Getty Images
[UNVERIFIED CONTENT] The red poppy is a symbol of remembrance for all the men and women who fought in war. This design is Canadian. A hand is selecting a pin from many.

Today, I did not wear a poppy.

I want to believe that the poppy is simply representative of a moment of silence for those who have died fighting in wars for Canada. But it's naïve to pretend that the poppy is only and just that, when really, there is an underlying subtext, one that glorifies war and idolizes the idea of sacrifice.

I've already had people say that this is disrespectful "shame on you" and that I'm not being enough of a patriot. But Remembrance Day has turned into something that I don't like, and I can't wear a symbol that's representative of a government that has fought neocolonial wars that I simply don't agree with.

In fact, the only war we can justify going to is World War II, a war that we joined far too late. Truthfully, nobody cared about the horrific genocide taking place, but Britain finally realized their empire was at stake. Nobody batted an eye in the years running up to it, when Poland and Czechoslovakia were invaded.

Remembrance Day has vastly changed, falling prey to the same neoliberal shift that has altered the rest of the nation. In the immediate aftermath of World War I and II, Remembrance Day was a way of bowing our heads in grief for the true costs of war. It was a time where we hoped we would never have to go to war again, experience the horrors of the trenches, and sacrifice civilian lives callously dubbed "collateral damage." But what was a day of mourning, took a crude shift to pride after 9/11. Post 9/11 war attitudes are less "let's never have to do this awful thing again," and more "hell yeah, fighting for freedom!"

Am I really supposed to believe that destabilizing Iraq and Afghanistan is for MY freedom? My rights, my freedoms, were brought about my activists and lawyers, not from the guns of war, or drones dropped on villages, or childishly patriotic proclamations of democratic pride.

No, I don't wear a poppy. I'm not thankful that the government sends the lives of young adults with potential to fight for oil and territory, under this thinly-veiled guise that it's actually for "freedom." War is not glorious, sacrifice is not patriotic, it's tragic. The post 9/11 Remembrance Day has simply become an excuse to put on a show of misinformed nationalism and spew propaganda of "we're protecting your freedom" while simultaneously altering Canada's terrorism laws to limit people's personal freedoms, or putting out Bill C-36 which will impact the freedom and safety of sex workers.

If the government is so adamant that we respect veterans, they could, perhaps, respect veterans by giving them greater access to mental health resources for when they come back home riddled with PTSD. Our government has its citizens to go fight in pointless wars, then makes up for it by throwing big displays of poppies and hundreds of renditions of Flanders Field.

I want to believe that if I wear a poppy it is only representative of those who died in World War II. But it has become representative of the current wars, of imperialism, of a settler-colonial state still fighting wars for its own greedy interests overseas.

Go ahead and pretend like the poppy means one thing and couldn't possibly be tied to anything else. But I can't even attempt to fool myself into thinking that the poppy is only indicative of peace or mourning. Today I didn't wear a poppy, and I won't wear one next year either.

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