Sunday, April 25, 2010

White Poppies, ANZAC Day

White Poppies, ANZAC Day

Hi, welcome to an unusual episode of, well, its not really Coexisting With Nonhuman Animals , I just wanted to talk about ANZAC day, war in general, and White Poppies. Today, the 25th of April is ANZAC day in New Zealand, today New Zealand remembers our dead from previous wars.

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ANZAC means Australia and New Zealand Army Corps, New Zealand worked together with Australia in the First World War. ANZAC day in particular remembers a beach landing at Galipoli, in Turkey, where ANZAC troops landed at what is now called ANZAC Cove. Many Australian and New Zealand troops lost their lives, and that is what we remember on ANZAC day.

Artificial Red Poppies are worn on ANZAC Day, to remember our soldiers who died. The Returned Services Association, RSA, sells the artificial flowers, which are worn for the day, and often left at memorials nationwide.

At least in New Zealand, the White Poppy seems to be a very recent addition. The White Poppy remembers those killed by war on ALL sides, from all wars, and has a message of peace, the white poppy has the word PEACE in its centre, hoping for a world without any war.

Its amazing how hostile people in New Zealand seem to be towards the White Poppy. They say its an insult to those who fought and died to defend New Zealand, or, its a trick to cash in by tree hugging hippies, selling another kind of fake flower around ANZAC day. I've grown up feeling proud to wear a Red Poppy on ANZAC day, to remember the New Zealanders who died, to remember my paternal Grandfather who fought in the New Zealand Navy during World War 2, but I also like the White Poppy. I don't think its one or the other, I'm happy to wear both at the same time. In many ways, the White Poppy remembers every person who has been killed, but I support the veterans who profit from sales of the Red Poppy, so I like both.

I feel more than a little strange covering ANZAC day on this show, I am far from an expert on War, and I make no claims to be right about anything I talk about. Perhaps I should mention my own families experience with war.

My paternal grandfather fought in the New Zealand Navy in the pacific theatre. I have two of his medals, and a photo of him in his naval uniform. He died when I was young, and I never got to speak with him about his memories of the second world war. My maternal grandmothers partner, I call him Bob, would spend many hours telling me about the second world war. I would sit on the carpet and listen to him for hours straight. Bob was English, a Geordie in particular, something I know very little about, although he could speak the crazy Geordie dialect, where speakers talk about 500 times faster than any other English speaker and use words like "hoose" for house, "doon" for down and my favourite that I might start myself, "forkytail" for earwigs. Bob only ever spoke like a Geordie if he was asked. Bob and I would talk about all the job positions he had filled, he seemed to have been in every conceivable job available, except for fighting on the front lines. I've learnt all kinds of interesting things from Bob, it was very useful to hear someone who had actually been in England at the time of the war speak of his experiences. I learnt that his own father was killed while serving as a security guard patrolling warehouses, a bomb blew up the building he was in. New Zealanders can speak of serving their country abroad during war, but we have nothing like that. I've always imagined it like the set of Coronation Street, to imagine a bomb falling out of nowhere to blow up one of those buildings is very difficult to imagine for me. But that was the reality of war in Europe.

I'll read from the Wikipedia page on the White Poppy

"1933 the Women's Co-operative Guild introduced the White Poppy. Their intention was to remember all the war dead of all wars, with the added meaning of a hope for the end of all wars; the red poppy, they felt, signified only the British military dead."

I think my family has suffered from war just as much as any other family in New Zealand did. I think I should be able to wear a White Poppy, regretting the deaths of everyone killed by war, and wishing for peace. And yet, the White Poppy seems to be HATED in New Zealand.

I think part of the issue is that New Zealanders see this White Poppy as a modern thing, they have never heard of it before, and its a knee jerk reaction to be so negative about it. I don't see that a fake white flower could be a threat to anyone, especially with a sticker in its middle saying "peace". Really, if the only thing the Veterans have against the White Poppy is that they don't profit from its sale, I think thats not very valid. I do support the Veterans here, I hate the idea of elderly people dying alone in poverty, and so I buy Red Poppies also.

Reading from Wikipedia,
"The Royal British Legion has no official opinion on the wearing of white poppies, stating that it "is a matter of choice, the Legion doesn't have a problem whether you wear a red one or a white one, both or none at all" I wish the RSA here in New Zealand could be equally accepting.

I've heard from those angry that the White Poppy is sold around ANZAC Day, well, that is the logical time for New Zealanders to remember the tragedies of war, its about the only time this country remembers the war dead.

During the first world war, there was in fact obvious times when both sides saw how each was human. There is one cultural event that is widely remembered as bringing soldiers in Europe together, and it wasn't Christmas, it was of course The Beautiful Game.

We remember them as Veterans now, as elderly people who need assistance, but at the time, they were young people, no different than you or I, assuming we are both around war-serving age. If the game of Football could bring soldiers together, to share stories, memories and time together, then I cant see how promoting Peace would be a bad thing. There was nothing glamourous in the army, and I'm sure practically every soldier, on every side would have wanted peace in their lifetimes more than to be remembered after they had been killed.

My friend Elizabeth was kind enough to join me to talk about war.

I thank Elizabeth for her time.

I thought it would be interesting to hear about someone in a different position to myself, my friend Andrew lives in England, and his family was in a different scenario than mine at the time of the World Wars. For New Zealanders, we were far away from where the fighting of war was occurring, but it was much closer to home for Andrews family, it was in fact, AT home for Andrews family.

I really am glad Andrew could join me, his family had such a different experience to mine. Many of the critics of the White Poppy say that its a "white feather", that supporters are cowards, that they would stand by as our country were invaded. Well, New Zealand WASNT invaded, the Soviet Union WAS during the second world war. There was much more at stake than just being called a "coward" and I hope those who are critical of those wishing for peace can understand what it was really like to be in war, it was not glamourous, war is horrible, war is awful.

I didn't have to ask my friend Andrew if Soviet Union or Ukrainian or even Russian people love their children too, people are the same worldwide, and I think its highly appropriate to mourn ALL losses caused by war. I support the Red Poppy, I remember my family members who were affected by war, but I also support the White Poppy, mourning all those who have been killed worldwide, and asking for peace. Lest we forget.


3 killed in helicopter crash (Bob)

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