Badge of Honour?

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.  

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5 responses to “Badge of Honour?

  1. I'm sad that your understanding of the meaning of the Poppy being worn has political or some sort of social overtones. At it's simplest, it marks ALL of those who have suffered and died in war, not just the military. Yes, it has military significance as the Royal British Legion as the lead charity promotes the symbolism of the poppy, which was the only flower that survived to blossom on the battle fields of Flanders in WW1, but it also supports and works alongside many other charities that support not just veterans, but former merchant seamen, widows and children of those who died and charities that worked or arose from survivors of the Blitz, in the main civilians.

    I wear a Poppy, not from pride in our military prowess, but to express my support for the charitable work of the RBL, of which I am a member and the many other charities that support survivors of war, refugees and and the vital welfare work that is missing from our state social provision.

    I am under no obligation to wear it, but as a former serviceman, it means much more to me than making a political statement or being a social symbol. I have lost friends who died in action. I have supported the families who survived them. This is vital work and charities play a huge part in their carrying on and making a fresh start.

  2. Many thanks for your thoughtful comment – it is because of the understanding that you and many others have of the poppy that I will wear one on 11th November.
    My concern is the misappropriation of symbols, and of the assumptions people make about them. I don't want to cause offence to those who serve their countries and causes.

  3. Claire, thank you for responding. I was only trying to clarify something that I too have concerns about, the highjacking of such symbols as the Poppy by celebrities and others who use it for purely, selfish, self promotion.

    This year again, I have been given the privilege of leading an Act of Remembrance at one of our Churches, this year will be marked by research carried out by a Kent based historian who has researched all of those who died during WW1 and WW2 from our Benefice Churches, which includes many civilians who became casualties. For the first time, they will be read out among those military casualties whose names are on the war memorial at the church. That is truly a community act of remembrance.

  4. And one of the powerful uniting acts we do is to read out the names – last year I preached about the name on a memorial about whom we have no further information….about the fact that behind each name there is a human life lived and ended. May we both be blessed and a blessing as we read the names on Sunday.

  5. Pingback: More change… | Rev'd Claire·

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