I’m not wearing any badges at the moment, no poppy, no ribbons indicating support for women bishops, breast cancer awareness, no wristband for a good cause. I am a little off badges.
The reluctance may be to do with the fact that I wear a distinctive badge six days a week. Six days out of seven, people look at me and make assumptions. Some of these assumptions are entirely correct, some of them are a little off beam. It is fair to assume that I am a minister of religion (an expression apparently understood by car insurers). But is is less fair to assume that I disapprove of unmarried mothers, or that I support every edict of the Roman Catholic Church. It isn’t even terribly fair to assume that I am the real life version of the Vicar of Dibley, although as assumptions go it is closer to the mark.
Wearing a poppy indicates my support for the work of the Royal British Legion, for all that they do to support members of our armed forces who have been injured or bereaved by war. Now, don’t misunderstand. I am profoundly grateful to those who serve in our Armed Forces. They do jobs which I couldn’t, endure situations I cannot even imagine, and generally ensure I live a life of ease and safety. I owe them big time. But wearing a poppy seems to have become one of the big “must do”s of our time.
When I was growing up, I went on parade as a Brownie and a Guide on Remembrance Sunday. And we observed 2 minutes of silence to remember and honour those killed in war, to recommit them to God’s care. But now, to fail to observe silence on 11th November, to fail to wear a poppy has become un-British. It has become un-British but the poppy is now symbolic of a particular form of British identity which does not sit easily for me. The political overtones of the poppy, of the ‘just’ war, of the rights and wrongs of conflicts, all trouble me. As someone pointed out, it might be simpler to make my donation and decline to wear the symbol – I’m happy with that.
But then there is Remembrance Sunday – a service and procession to lead, a public act of remembrance at the roadside War Memorial. And what of all the people who have lost sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, dads, mums, uncles or aunts? How do they perceive my “lack of respect” if I don’t wear a poppy then? I don’t like wearing ANY badge on my robes, but on Remembrance Sunday, I think I shall do so. I will wear a poppy on 11th November.
But don’t expect me to put on a twibbon on Facebook or Twitter for women bishops or breast cancer. Friends know what I think and do about both of those issues. And no-one else is going to take much notice.