Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Of Poppies and Men

I wonder whether any of you saw the recent coverage of the 65th anniversary of the D Day landings. I was, as ever, very taken with the quiet dignity of these old men from Britain, Canada and the U.S. and I was particularly taken with the interviews that included not just the veterans but their sons and grandsons who, it was clear, had caught a living glimpse of history as they expressed in wide-eyed excitement their pride in their grandfathers.

When history comes alive like this it is very exciting and I remember what has become a very precious video tape of a BBC docudrama on the D Day landings watched regularly and with awe by my younger daughter.

I am not of the war generation, nor am I a war-baby and yet I never fail to be moved by the rain of poppy petals at the annual Rememberance Day ceremony from the Royal Albert Hall: every poppy representing one of the valiant fallen. What an incredible sight - the poppies fall on to the bowed heads of the gathered audience, vetrans, serving miltary personnel and cadets: all generations represented together.

The poppy: a powerful symbol of pride and remembrance whose sale to the public in the days leading up to Remembrance Day goes towards supporting those same vetrans through the Royal British Legion - an organisation characterised by its standing in British society and its own quiet dignity.

The Royal British Legion: not an organisation which courts controversy and yet this week it has spoken out against the misuse of the poppy by recently elected Euro M.P. Nick Griffin of the right-wing British National Party.

See here

It seems that his attempts to take on the mantles of institutional respectability and patriotism to boost his case are destined to failure. This is the same Nick Griffin recently chided by the Archbishop of Canturbury for adopting Christian language in his electionering.

Hate is not a Christian value.