Newspaper and former Defence Secretary back freedom to choose red or white poppy
A newspaper and a former Secretary of State for Defence have expressed their agreement with a call by the think tank Ekklesia, that people should be free to remember the dead through the white poppy, rather than red, without fear of causing public outcry.
Writing in the Sunday Times, Michael Portillo has also expressed his agreement with Ekklesia's suggestion, that the remembrance often encapsulated the idea that war can be redemptive.
The comments come after both Jonathan Bartley from the think tank Ekklesia, and Channel 4 newsreader Jon Snow, drew attention to what Snow termed "poppy fascism".
Although mis-reported by some media as a call for the red poppy to be replaced by a white one, the think tank Ekklesia suggested that churches and others should stock white poppies to allow people to consider the merits of both and make a decision without fear of causing offence.
In an editorial yesterday (Saturday) the Herald newspaper in Scotland wrote: "How, exactly, to remember and reflect have themselves become matters of heated debate. The television journalist Jon Snow objects to the "poppy fascism" of people who insist he wears one on screen. He will not, and prefers to show his respect privately. Ekklesia, a religious think tank, promotes white poppies because, it says, they are a more Christian emblem for peace and an end to war.
"Controversy can be corrosive, but these are legitimate areas of discourse. We must never forget the sacrifices made in the two world wars, but if we are to engage today's younger generations, who are distant from these conflicts, we have to take account of shifting opinion and the evolving ways acts of remembrance are practised."
The newspaper expressed its own backing for the red poppy, but affirmed that it should be a matter of individual choice.
Although also disagreeing with the idea of the white poppy former Conservative Defence Secretary Michael Portillo, writing in the Sunday Times, has also backed the idea that people should be free to choose how to remember.
"Bartley has a point about political correctness" he writes. "It is disagreeable when people are condemned merely for failing to conform to what others do."
Portillo also agreed with Ekklesia's suggestion that remembrance encapsulates the idea that violence is sometimes redemptive. It was for this reason, he suggested, that white poppies were misguided.
"Bartley wants us to think about whether our soldiers were sacrificed needlessly. He talks about 'a myth of redemptive violence'. He complains that we commemorate only those from our side and 'not those our people killed' writes Portillo.
"In my view redemptive violence is not a myth but a fact evidenced by our history."
"Christís non-violent sacrifice is commemorated at Easter. On November 11 we recall that sometimes the finest achievements of humanity could be saved from violence only by responding with violence," Portillo writes.
The comments come as families of soldiers who died in Iraq, laid both red and white poppies in remembrance at the Cenotaph in London.
The red poppy is a symbol of remembrance, according to their producers the British Legion, only for those who 'died in the cause freedom.' Those wearing white poppies believe that the dead on all sides of the conflict should be remembered, and also that the best way to honour and remember the dead, is to resolve to work for peace in the future - a statement that those producing the red poppy have historically declined to make.
See also: Think tank rejects misleading claims about its poppy stance 11/11/06; Families of dead Iraq soldiers lay red and white poppies 10/11/06; Proper debate at about war 'honours those who have died' 09/11/06; Violent solutions not 'normal' but mythic, says theologian 09/11/06; Newsreader Jon Snow condemns 'poppy fascism' 09/11/06;Father of dead Canadian soldier supports white poppy 10/11/06; Challenge to political correctness of the poppy 09/11/06; Canadian war veterans attack peace activists over white poppies 08/11/06; Controversy over sale of white poppies. Consuming Passion: the cross and its interpretation in the face of religiously-sanctioned violence. More on the roots of the "myth of redemptive violence" here. Walter Wink is Professor of Biblical Interpretation at Auburn Theological Seminary in New York City, USA. His books may be purchased at Metanoia Books. To buy white poppies: http://www.whitepoppy.org/; British Legion appeal: http://www.poppy.org.uk/givemoney.cfm.