Is it wrong to wear a White Poppy? A question that has dominated social media over the last couple of weeks, with one individual claiming that the white poppy ‘signifies attention-seeking, virtue-signalling, half-wittery.’ Whereas another claims that it signifies ‘Peace, end to wars, remembrance of all victims of war.’
Some question the relevance of the debate and argue that it is a cyclical debate without meaning. However, the debate was given fuel this year following the comments made by Johnny Mercer, Member of Parliament for Plymouth More View. He claimed: ‘White poppies are attention seeking rubbish.’ He continued: ‘Ignore the wearers of them. If you don’t want to wear a poppy don’t bother; they fought and died so you could choose.’ He concluded that sellers of the white poppy were ‘deliberately’ trying to ‘hijack it’s symbolism for [their] own ends.’
So, what is the difference between the red poppy and white poppy?
The red poppy was adopted as a symbol of remembrance in 1921, largely due to the prominence of the flowers in the battlefields of Europe – notably in France and Belgium.
Whereas white poppies were created in 1933 with the intent purpose of expressing the message ‘never again’ as some feared that this message was slipping away from those in Britain following the First World War.
The Peace Pledge Union, responsible for selling white poppies, claims that there is three elements to the poppies meaning: ‘they represent remembrance for all victims of war, a commitment to peace and a challenge to attempts to glamorise or celebrate war.’
Excess funds donated to the Peace Pledge Union are then used for their education and campaign operations with the aim of ‘promoting nonviolent approaches to conflict and challenging militarism.’
Whereas the Royal British Legion, distributors of the red poppy, are responsible for helping members of the Royal Navy, British Army, Royal Air Force. They also use funds to support veterans and their families. They note: ‘We also campaign to improve their lives, organise the Poppy Appeal and remember the fallen.’
It seems that your donation, to either organisation, will have a positive impact. However, it does appear that a trend is occurring with poppy sales, with more white poppies being sold than in previous years.
Inflammatory comments fail to undermine the significance of a symbol but can cause unnecessary divisions.