Monday, 2 November 2009

Lest We Forget

Today I, and my colleagues, each spent some time collecting money for the annual poppy appeal.

As ever it was a privilege to be collecting for the Royal British Legion, who support ex-servicemen and woman throughout the UK (although in Scotland, the poppy appeal is managed by the Earl Haig fund).

The poppy appeal is, however, about more than charity. Wearing a poppy is not just a badge of generosity but a statement. For some that statement is support for armed forces. For others it's about remembrance. For still other's it's about respect. For many, such as myself, it's a mixture of all the above.

While I may not be in favour of every war we, as a nation, fight, it is important to divorce opinion on the policy and those who made it from that of the people who carry it out. Our servicemen and women are charged with exercising their duties to the best of their abilities and risk life and limb in doing so. They deserve our support as they strive to do so.

Remembrance is about more than wreaths and monuments to the war dead, it is about examining and learning from our history. Remembrance is about sober reflection and contemplation of what we ask of others in the name of the state. Remembrance is about hope that we can prevent history from repeating itself.

Finally, the poppy symbolises respect - respect for those who have fought and died. Respect for those who have been injured in the line of duty. Respect for those who are prepared to risk all for the defense of this country. It also indicates a respect for the values of our society - an acknowledgement that we do have a common interest and shared beliefs.

I know there are those who do not wear a poppy. Many of these people take what they believe to be a principled stand, whether that be a general pacifism, an antipathy to particular wars or aspects of the armed forces or a feeling that the poppy collection, and remembrance services, glorify war.

They are though, I believe, fundamentally mistaken. We have to believe that the collective act of remembrance can affect our futures. Our history is what makes us, what we do with the knowledge and experiences we have had will determine the legacy we pass onto our children.


Read other posts on related subjects here.

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