OPINION: ‘It is a matter of personal choice whether an individual chooses to wear a poppy’

Paper poppies have become a popular mark of respect
Paper poppies have become a popular mark of respect

November has arrived! The daylight is scarce; the roads are getting icy, and poppies are now being sold in every direction.

As Chesterfield Borough Council announces that it is ‘banning’ white poppies from the town’s annual Remembrance day service, I say that it doesn’t matter what colour poppy you wear on your lapel; whether it be red, white, purple - or even no poppy at all! Why is it that every year the ‘poppy police’ come out and lecture people on how to wear a poppy and shame those who do not?

I feel that there is almost a sense of forced imposition of poppy-wearing on every man, woman and child in the UK. Apparently, if you don’t wear a poppy from October 25 – November 15, you disrespect the war dead and the armed forces. Of course, this is complete rubbish. Just because somebody does not wear a red flower on their clothing, it does not mean that they do not support the causes of the Royal British Legion.

Every time I go shopping, and I walk past a collection tin, I donate the loose change I have in my pockets. Isn’t this more meaningful than pulling out the same poppy from your drawer every year and just wearing it because it is what society expects?

This ‘poppy fascism’ goes against everything the flower stands for. Those who died in battle fought for the freedom and choice to wear a poppy. Forcing somebody to wear one, and forcing others not to wear a white one, only contradicts what it stands for as you take away their freedom and choice. But wait! Even those who do wear poppies are not safe from the poppy police.

It never ceases to amaze me that people often get abuse for wearing it ‘incorrectly’. I’ve seen people get scolded for wearing the poppy on the ‘wrong side’, or not having the leaf at the 11 O’Clock position! Some people have even suggested that those who do not wear poppies are offended by the symbol. Can anybody reading this post honestly say that they have ever met anybody offended by the flower?

Just like you will never meet anybody who is offended by the phrase ‘Merry Christmas’, or find people who are outraged by the flying the Union Jack like some would like you to believe. If the poppy police want to criticise those who are disrespecting Remembrance Day, maybe they should start with the retailers who this weekend tastelessly launched the new Call of Duty WWII game. As one of my Twitter followers put it: “My father didn’t fight in WWII for people to be told what to think or believe. That’s the opposite of democracy.”

Whether you wear a poppy or not is down to the individual’s choice, and nobody should be shamed into either wearing a poppy or not wearing a poppy.

For me, the British Legion hits the nail on the head on its website, which states: “There is no right or wrong way to wear a poppy. It is a matter of personal choice whether an individual chooses to wear a poppy and also how they choose to wear it. The best way to wear one is simply with pride.”

- Charlie Proctor is a journalism student at Nottingham Trent University.