When I first heard of people wanting to wear white poppies instead of red for Remembrance Day, I felt as if some aliens had landed on Earth.
White poppy proponents apparently believe in using conflict resolution rather than war.
I don’t think we are doing a good job of communicating the realities of human nature and history to subsequent generations, if these are the conclusions white poppiers draw about the First and Second World Wars — or subsequent global conflicts.
I would like the white poppiers to remember Kristallnacht — Nov. 9 and 10, 1938 — the nights of a nationwide pogrom of Nazi Germany against the Jews.
Think of how your conflict resolution skills would have stopped the pogrom by Nazi SA Stormtroopers as they gleefully ransacked Jewish shops, synagogues, houses and human beings. Just imagine you boldly stepping forward with your white poppy to say to them “Stop that boys! We can negotiate a peaceful solution to this!”
They already had a solution pending. It was called the “Final Solution” and it was not negotiable for the unlucky Jews and other Europeans who died in the concentration camps.
Would that the white poppiers had been out in force to see the flames rising high, to watch former neighbours beaten to a pulp while former ‘friends’ stood by and cheered, and other Germans hid behind curtains, repulsed that their once cultured society had become a beast.
Some 30,000 Jewish men were rounded up that night, many beaten, all sent to concentration camps. More than 1,500 synagogues were ransacked; many burned down. Personal property of Jews was confiscated or destroyed and the entire intent was to demoralize and terrorize the integrated Jewish segment of society.
There was world outrage, white poppiers. For this bizarre reason alone it is an odd blessing that Kristallnacht happened. This is the first proof of the impending Holocaust. It was public and Germany was widely condemned.
White poppies didn’t stop it. Neither did the ‘peace offering’ of Czechoslovakia to the Nazis, accomplished by that British conflict resolution wizard then Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain.
Nazi Germany’s Hitler marched on into Poland. So much for that white poppy ploy.
In Germany, some people of conscience tried to stop Hitler — Admiral Canaris, his own top military intelligence officer, was one. He tried to stop plunging Germany into another war.
Canaris knew there was no good reason and that Germany probably would not win. Canaris went so far as to try to have Hitler assassinated; another plan was to have him arrested on grounds of insanity. In the end it was Canaris who was found out, arrested and executed, just before the end of the war.
White poppies didn’t stop Hitler.
Red poppies did.
Red — the color of courage, of life, of life blood of rage at injustice.
Red — the color of the fiery night sky of Britain as she withstood the Blitz — continuous day and night bombing raids by Nazi Luftwaffe aerial command; red — the flaming of Britain’s air fleet — some on the ground, many in the air, as the Luftwaffe tried to knock out Britain’s aerial strength in the Battle of Britain.
Red — the hearts of determined young men and women who went to fight, not negotiate, against a totalitarian foe whose key asset in conflict ‘resolution’ was deceit.
Red — the centre ‘target’ of the ‘roundel’ insignia on British planes — flown, navigated or serviced by the some 130,000 Commonwealth men who trained here in Western Canada in the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan at some 231 training sites in Canada.
Only the red poppies could have saved the world from the cancerous spread of the Third Reich. What we need to remember on Remembrance Day is that you can’t negotiate with the power-mad or the insane.
Sometimes you have to fight. And win.
We need to remember that we are free to celebrate democracy’s victory only because those soldiers, sailors, airmen and support people agreed to give up their own freedoms when they joined the military. Yes, you and I can chat about conflict resolution because ‘they’ are willing to fight when required.
That is in fact the grand irony. Our freedoms are protected by a proportionately small group of Canadian Forces and other service men and women, all of whom willingly forego most of the freedoms we enjoy when they sign up for service.
We should humbly remember their courage. We should hold the torch of freedom high.
Michelle Stirling-Anosh is a freelance writer from Ponoka.