The Problem with Poppies

I know why people are wearing poppies today: it is to commemorate a war, now over a century ago, in which hundreds of thousands of people died. People wear poppies this time of year to make sure we remember that brutal conflict, because if we forget it, we risk repeating it; and that must never happen. That’s why I have no problem with wearing poppies. Yet more and more these days I fear that poppy wearing has become interwoven with nationalism, and that some people, especially outists, are trying to usurp remembrance. They would whip us all up into a nationalist fever, so that Europe is perceived as the enemy and old rivalries with states on the continent are revived. Or, worse still, they would frame the goal of European Unity as the betrayal of all those who died, when in fact the EU was created to make sure we never have to see such bloodshed again. That’s the problem with poppy wearing: as a symbol it is being usurped, and used by some to say precisely the opposite of what it was intended to.

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