The Symbol of a Poppy

Photo Courtesy of Rex Features

The symbolism of wearing the poppy on Remembrance Day appears to be changing. 

The Bishop of Kingston, Richard Cheetham, who led the service at The Rose Theatre on Sunday acknowledged the complexities of some of the present conflicts in his sermon: Terrorism, mass surveillance, suicide bombers and drone strikes.

He seemed to sense the apparent futility of Remembrance Day when much of the world is still very much caught up in war and violence. “Today demands rather more of us than a simple remembrance, rather it’s a powerful call to action,” said Richard Cheetham. 

“What we cannot do is simply stand by and do nothing, that would not honour those who have laid down their lives.”

Is remembrance ‘a justification for conflict’ as one veteran argues? 

Do we wear the poppy unthinkingly, without remembering the lives lost? 

Does wearing the poppy ‘advocate war’? 

Has the symbol of the poppy been extended to remembering the people who have died in recent wars as well as remembering the people who died in the two world wars?

These are difficult questions and ones which were surely on the mind of many people this Sunday as wreaths were laid and as prayers were said. 

According to one bystander, the turn out for the day was the biggest crowd they’d seen in years. Perhaps war is in people’s consciousness more since Iraq.

In his sermon the bishop talked about what kind of society is worth fighting for and the collective responsibility of people ‘to contribute to a healthy and just society.’

It seems as though, with the recent violence in the Middle East, people are becoming more sensitive to the loss of life and that the symbol of the poppy to remember is not enough. 

“We don’t want to erode these symbols. By remembering we can think before going into conflict. The power of remembering is important,” said Councillor Julie Pickering.

Acting on the lessons learnt is what is needed to honour the memory of the men and women who have sacrificed their lives. 

Indeed, we must not forget and we must make these memories meaningful. 

Image courtesy of Rex Features

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