Clay suggests that had "the Nazis had taken over the world, we would be encouraged to celebrate that conquest on some day of observation, perhaps "honouring" the soldiers of the Fatherland and the sacrifices that they made as the Third Reich spread its "benevolent influence" over the world."
Encouraged? What a mild and innocuous word.
Does Clay really believe that we would simply be 'encouraged' to mark the victory of the Reich?
Like many other unconditional pacifists, Clay quotes a proverb to support his moral equivalency:
"Until lions have their historians, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunters."
Where this arguement falls down is that it is not just the 'hunters' (read Allies) who write history -- the lion's prey (holocaust survivors, victims of Nazi occupation, and Germans of that generation such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer) also share their stories as do the civilian internees in Japanese concentration camps. Then there are newsreels, and the meticulous records kept by the Nazis -- to suggest that history is written by the victor is ignore evidence and the eyewitness testimonials of those who suffered at the hands of the lion before he was tamed. One would expect that Clay, being a teacher, would want to explore those voices which were almost silenced by the Nazis. The people of Holland and France still commemorate and honour our soldiers' sacrifices -- but the civilians of those countries lived through war, not in the movies, not in history books -- but in the mouth of the lion. Clay can pronounce his holier-than-thou attitude from the safe and comfortable distance of thousands of miles and 60 years.
Let me clarify that if the purpose of Remembrance Day was to remember the suffering of almost 11 million Jewish people, Gypsy people, gays and lesbians, Jehovah's Witnesses, Polish people, Serbian people, disabled people and others who were murdered during the holocaust, I would gladly acknowledge their suffering by wearing a yellow star of David, a pink triangle, or whatever symbol was chosen to say "never again" to such atrocities.
Remembrance Day is a day set aside to honour the courageous men and women who risked their lives and died -- and who by design or by happenstance, liberated nations and races in causes that HAD NOTHING WHATSOEVER TO DO WITH THEM PERSONALLY. The sacrifice of the 'warrior' in the eyes of smug and self-righteous pacifists, is unworthy of commemoration because they had no way of knowing that the outcome of the war would mean the cessation of the slaughter in the concentration camps -- to Clay, these were simply soldiers acting for 'nationalistic' and 'political' reasons. In fact they were people taking action, at considerable risk to themselves, for no personal gain -- and as noble as the sentiments of a Ghandi are, thank God some people weren't courageous enough to march into the gas chambers alongside the Jews and disabled etc.
And it's remarkable that anyone could believe this:
(T)he poppy acts more as a rallying cry to support military solutions to the world's problems, instead of a heart-felt and genuine plea for an end to the suffering of war.
In fact Canada, a country that prides itself on peacekeeping and pacifism has been the only country to use the poppy as a symbol of remembrance until the past eight to ten years. Britain has recently adopted the symbol, but they don't have the tradition, and therefore there hasn't been the same success in introducing the poppy and establishing it as a symbol of remembrance.
To suggest that the poppy acts as a 'rallying cry' does a great disservice to all the Veterans who have worked tirelessly to ingrain the motto: "never again" into the minds of schoolchildren.
Clay summarizes WWI and determines that because that war had no noble cause, the veterans are not worthy of our honour. This day was set aside by the King and Prime Minister to remember those who fought and died for King and Country -- but it was observed by ordinary Canadians -- not because the cause had been noble and pure, but because the soldiers had endured such privation, such carnage, such violence at the hands of their politicians. This day was meant to remember the evil imposed on people by their governments and it has endured precisely because that is the sentiment evoked each year when the they play The Last Post and we pause for a moment of silence. Ordinary folk didn't glorify that war. They called it 'the war to end all wars' because they sincerely hoped it was. Through their intellectual posturing, it is people like Clay who MAKE the poppy a symbol of war - it never was that - -it is simply a token of remembrance for those poor sods who didn't really know why they were 'over there', but who never made it home. How sad that people like Clay need to twist it to suit their political agenda.
Clay then goes on to view WWII through the prism of WWI -- the Allies were to blame because of the strict sanctions placed on Germany after the Armistice. He doesn't see that the truth of this is irrelevant. Politicians and soldiers are different entities. We don't solemnly remember the politics of war, we remember the cost of war in the lives our our soldiers.
Not only is Clay applying modern sensibilities to an era that by its existence, taught us the injustice of these policies, he is confusing politics with principle and judging soldiers and veterans in place of their governments.
I don't refuse to wear a poppy to criticize the efforts of individual soldiers . . . who fought - and died - . . . believing that they defended and fought for noble goals. I respect their spirit of duty, sacrifice and dedication to causes that they saw as greater than themselves. I refrain from wearing a poppy to criticize the use of military force, at the expense of soldiers, civilians and their families, by the state - any state - in order to achieve political goals, no matter how noble. Remembrance Day usurps the sacrifices made by individuals and conscripts those sacrifices in the name of nationalism - a divisive cause that fragments the human race into pockets of "us" and "them."
It isn't the government or the military that have made the poppy the emblem of significance that it is in Canada -- it is the individual soldier. It is the Veteran. So, although Clay claims his protestations are not meant to disrespect the individual soldier, they in fact do. No one knows the horrors of war like our Vets do. You won't find a Vet who tries to glorify war -- it's the Vets who say 'never again'. Clay's insistence that the poppy is a call-to-arms for the war-monger crowd is a distortion of the message of the War Amps and the Legionnaires who are the main sources of public information for Remembrance Day.
When we remember those who were called to serve, I will wear a poppy. I won't wear it as a symbol of nationalism or in the name of some political goal -- I just want my kids to know that I remember and they should remember, those who '. . . lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, loved and were loved' -- not because their cause was noble, but because they served and sacrificed. The rightness/wrongness of the politics of their wars is not at issue on November 11. Why don't people like Clay see the distinction?
By the way Clay, despite being on the 'wrong' side of the War(s), the Germans and Japanese honour their war dead -- not to justify their national aims during the war, not to glorify their ill-treatment of enemy soldiers and civilians alike, not to revive bygone grudges -- but to remember those young men, who through no fault of their own, were caught up in their era and died on behalf of their countries.
What people like Clay don't get, is that if we turn our backs on Remembrance Day and the poppy, we allow our governments to forget the role they play in instigating and perpetrating war.
The poppy doesn't glorify war -- it is the perfect symbol of war's indifference to right and wrong / good or bad. The poppy grew over the graves of Allies and enemy alike.