white poppy

Writing the Church Times, director of Ekklesia, Jonathan Bartley, suggests that the white poppy is more in keeping with Christianity than the red variety.
Read more at Ekklesia

Peace Pledge Union runs the white poppy campaign. You can also buy them at Friends Meeting Houses, online at Quakers or in other education and community centres.

Since I don't have a white poppy to wear on Saturday, I'm going to try to wear other signs of peace this week:

1. Pray for both peacemakers and warmongers, on the terrace each evening (with bubbles - thanks Caz)
2. Remain calm during transport related stress (usually because I haven't allowed enough time, but ignoring that, I mutter and sometimes even yell at bus drivers, ticket collectors, supermarket checkout staff who don't have change..it's all true I'm afraid!)
3. Be truthful in my time and conversations
4. Seek points of connection with each person I talk with, no matter how different they seem
5. Eat peace with thanksgiving

What about you?

I had a paint box
but it didn't have the color red for the blood of the wounded
nor the white for the hearts and faces of the dead.
It didn't have yellow either for the burning sands of the desert.

Instead it had orange for the dawn and the sunset
and blue for new skies
and pink for the dreams of young people.

I sat down and painted peace.

(attributed to an anonymous Latin American child)


Dave Williams said…

I will wearing a red poppy although I have still got to get mine. I believe the red poppy symbolises all that we need to on Remembrance Day. It both enables us to remember those who died in conflict and who suffered the trauma of war and do something practically for them, it reminds us of the cost then of war encouraging us to desire peace. But it also reminds us that we should stand up to tyranny -and isn't that so important today -tyrants abroad and the treat to freedom at home!
Dave Williams said…

Wanted to add -great ideas for "wearing peace" and that's really what matters.

I will also be praising God for the peace that he gives and my prayer will be to share it with others
Anonymous said…
The Peace Pledge Union spent 1940 sharing platforms with fascists and anti-semites. It's leaders Morris, Ben Greene and the Marquis of Tavistock were out and out jew haters. Objectively pacifists always end up on the side of the bullies and murderers. Read some history.
rachel said…
anonymous - thank you for your comment. I've had a very quick look into this and can see that during the second world war a very wide range, often totally conflicting, group of organizations campaigned together against the war. It doesn't seem to make a lot of sense looking back.

While today it is the peace pledge union that is the primary organization behind the white poppy campaign (alongside the Quakers and other groups), the white poppy movement originated with the women's peace movement. The peace pledge union was started by Dick Sheppard, Canon of St Paul's.
rachel said…
dave - thanks for both your comments. I've also had a few emails on the subject, so this is a slightly wider response.

I hadn't realized that there has been a bit of debate this week in the UK. As someone who has worn a white poppy for a number of years now, I'm always amazed at the response it can provoke. This is revealing in itself. Has the symbol of the red poppy itself become sacred? Before I caught up with Jon Snow's comments about poppy fascism, I was also thinking about how the debate over poppy's often closes down the options. It suggests that only those who wear a red poppy are remembering the dead of war.

I do not have any experience of being a military person. I cannot speak of the danger and distress of fighting, or the deep friendships formed. I do believe there are times when the willingness to use force is necessary, but this does not mean that the exception sound be the rule - that we must or should perpetuate the heroic myth which tends towards machismo, individualism, a culture of sacrifice, glorification of violence and a silencing of alternative voices.

What does 'to remember' mean in the discourse about November 11? I want to ask how we can re-member (make whole) the butchered bodies and broken lives caused by war. Of course, the financial support that the British Legion provides is important. But how can we really re-member him? I say him since November 11 continues to ask us to remember soldiers, not the civilian population killed. We are made to remember English young men dying, at the exclusion of everyone and everything else.

Remembering the fallen hero does not lead to peace. Rather, it encourages a continuation of the struggle. Of course, this struggle may be a just and necessary struggle. But the basic orientation found within the language of Armistice Day is a call to continue 'the fight' rather than space to take a step back and question whether we are really in a better place today (and by we, I mean the whole world, not just middle class white people).

To be more specific, how can we continue to tell ourselves that the situation in Iraq has improved through our violent intervention? Our violence in response to the violence of the regime has created greater violence. This is not to subtract from the courage and professionalism of many (although not all) military personal. But surely the key thing today is to make visible the terrible breach between the dead and the living. And to proclaim it wrong and seek different ways of acting in the world, actions that make life and living possible.

In all this, I am inspired by Virginia Woolf , who in Three Guineas, suggests that women do not benefit from war since they are outsiders in society which does not protect them, within whose streets and house, they suffer from violence:

'When he says, as history proves that he has said, and may say again, “I am fighting to protect our country” and thus seeks to rouse her patriotic emotion, she will ask herself, “What does ‘our country’ mean to me an outsider?” To decide this she will analyse the meaning of patriotism in her own case. She will inform herself of the position of her sex and her class in the past. She will inform herself of the amount of land, wealth and property in the possession of her own sex and class in the present—how much of “England” in fact belongs to her. From the same sources she will inform herself of the legal protection which the law has given her in the past and now gives her. And if he adds that he is fighting to protect her body, she will reflect upon the degree of physical protection that she now enjoys when the words “Air Raid Precaution” are written on blank walls. And if he says that he is fighting to protect England from foreign rule, she will reflect that for her there are no “foreigners”, since by law she becomes a foreigner if she marries a foreigner. .....

“‘Our country,’” she will say, “throughout the greater part of its history has treated me as a slave; it has denied me education or any share in its possessions. ‘Our’ country still ceases to be mine if I marry a foreigner. ‘Our’ country denies me the means of protecting myself, forces me to pay others a very large sum annually to protect me, and is so little able, even so, to protect me that Air Raid precautions are written on the wall. Therefore if you insist upon fighting to protect me, or ‘our’ country, let it be understood, soberly and rationally between us, that you are fighting to gratify a sex instinct which I cannot share; to procure benefits which I have not shared and probably will not share; but not to gratify my instincts, or to protect either myself or my country. For,” the outsider will say, “in fact, as a woman, I have no country. As a woman I want no country. As a woman my country is the whole world.” And if, when reason has said its say, still some obstinate emotion remains, some love of England dropped into a child’s ears by the cawing of rooks in an elm tree, by the splash of waves on a beach, or by English voices murmuring nursery rhymes, this drop of pure, if irrational, emotion she will make serve her to give to England first what she desires of peace and freedom for the whole world.'

Wearing a white poppy does not mean disrespecting the dead. Far from it. It means speaking out for the dead: past and present in the hope of preventing future. Who wants to go to war and die? No-one. So how do we make sure no-one does?
Dave Williams said…

Through a number of means

In purely human political terms

1. Ensuring the stories of those who have experienced war are told -our own veterens and those who were affected by the blitz, those who suffered the horror of their villages being nalpalmed in Vietnam etc
2. By ensuring that our armed forces are effectively equipped so that there are approprate deterrents and that when action is neccessary (and I don't consider that it was in Iraq) that it can happen swiftly and accurately
3. By electing humble governments that don't have enlarged ideas of their own importance. After all it was Robin Cook's well intentioned ethical foreign policy that gave the excuse to Blair and Bush and the other neocons
4. By pursuing policies that will not destroy our environment leading to water and energy shortages or dependency on specific areas for specific fuels (note gas wars with Russia could easily follow the oil wars)
5. By treating other countries with proper respect, not exploiting them and fueling bitterness agaisnt our own


As you mentioned

As Christians

By proclaiming the goodnews of the kingdom that brings true peace

And remembering that until Christ's appearing there will be war -it is the reality of a fallen world but one day his full and lasting peace will come