REMEMBRANCE DAY IS OVER. Aside for a few sorrowful poppies in the gutter, remembering is set aside for another year.
Controversy engulfed Remembrance Day this year with Don Cherry’s rant that “You people,” as in immigrants to Canada, weren’t wearing enough poppies. Across the country, and locally, condemnation of his words were swift.
But here and elsewhere, there was an echo of “but he’s right about one thing, we should all wear poppies”. I saw people from Kamloops say the same on Twitter too. Mel Rothenburger devoted an entire column on topic of wearing poppies more often.
Shouldn’t we all wear poppies every Remembrance Day?
Perhaps. But in just my own circle, I know many who don’t wear poppies. Each has a story, and their stories say much about why we should let each decide what’s best for them.
There’s my old neighbor, who was born in Canada, but because he was of Japanese ancestry, was interred in World War II. All his family’s property was confiscated, and his freedom taken away. Should he wear a poppy?
There is the old friend of my father. Born in Czechoslovakia, he became a displaced person, and ended up in Germany. At 14 he was conscripted to fight for the German army, the army we are celebrating victory over. Should he wear a poppy?
Or a friend of my mother’s, whose father and brother were both killed in Italy, fighting in World War II, fighting against Allied Forces. Should she wear a poppy?
I think of my father, who served in the Canadian Air Force as a pilot. Many of his colleagues died in Korea, or in training exercises. His house is full of mementoes of old friends, long dead. I’ve never seen him wear a poppy.
My mother grew up in England during the war, in a village near a shipyard that was frequently bombed by German bombers. Her village was hit a few times too. Her mother, my grandmother, would hide her under the kitchen table or in the cellar for safety. Her father was gone the entire war, fighting first in North Africa, then In Italy.
It’s not lost on my mother that her father might well have fought against her friend’s father and brother in Italy. How peace and friendship can grow where war and hatred once flourished.
I’ve never seen my mother wear a poppy.
I once asked my grandmother why she never wore a poppy. My grandmother said she’d seen too much of war. She said she wanted to forget about it.
And I think of a newcomer I know, just one year in Canada. She didn’t wear a poppy this year. But she came for the very reason we all remember. She fled war. She watched her son be killed in front of her, and her husband disappeared. Maybe she will wear one someday. But the most important thing is that she has found safety and peace in Canada.
There are so many reasons to wear poppies. But there are many, many reasons someone might not.
What is more important is the treasure the peace and security we have, than to point at others. Those who wear the poppies the least may know the most of war, and the heavy cost those caught up in it bear.
Nancy Bepple is a former City councillor of Kamloops with a strong interest in community building projects.