Why I Wear Both the Red and White Poppies

whiteredpoppies1Remembrance Day is coming up.

It’s a difficult time for me. I believe we need to remember all that happened during the Great War and WWII, as well as the many conflicts Canada has been a part of since becoming a country; we need to remember the many fallen Canadians who left families and friends behind; we need to remember people like my Grandpa Thomas who, although a decorated war veteran, spoke little of the horrors he saw.

The horrors he helped create.

Did he do so knowingly?

Likely not.

But as I learn more and more of Canada’s history, I realize there is much we need to expose ourselves to, to take responsibility for, and to atone for. I am coming to understand that while we shout out our pride at being peacekeepers, we hurt people who speak out against the things we have done in the name of “peace”. Every year there’s a controversial tension between those who’d wear white poppies (pacifism, peace), and the more popular red poppy (remembrance).

But I’m learning to remember the fallen who gave their lives exposing Canada’s genocide of First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples; people who worked tirelessly here and overseas in medical operations, serving anyone — ANYONE — and were judged as traitors because they helped “the enemy”. I’m learning to remember that the winners aren’t always the good guys all the time, and saying that out loud doesn’t make me bad or ungrateful.

It simply means I’m doing what the red poppy stands for: I’m remembering.

That means all of the good Canada did, and all of the bad.

We destroyed entire cities and villages; we downed planes of families; we’ve created countless casualties of war and rarely have returned to help bury the dead of our enemies. We remember our “own”, and even then we often forget.

The Great War made a promise: “Never Again”.

Canada has broken that promise time and time again. We’ve created more war widows, more soldiers with PTSD, more vets on the street, more destruction of innocent people we’ll never have the chance to meet. We’ve broken our promise. That’s why I wear the white poppy as well.

I remember.

And I live for peace.

I invite all of those at odds with these flowers to come together with the humble realization that we are wanting those same things together:

Remembrance.

And peace.

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