Let’s talk poppies
Anyone who hasn’t heard about Don Cherry’s anti-immigrant poppy rant on Coach’s Corner must be living alone somewhere in the northern bush.
Reaction to Cherry’s remarks came fast and furious – particularly furious – on social media, with the majority of comments rightly slamming the inappropriate language. Many yearned for a return to the days of hockey commentators such as Ward Cornell and Howie Meeker.
People really shouldn’t be surprised at what Cherry said: his xenophobia has been on display for years. He regularly dismissed European hockey players as being unworthy of playing in the NHL, forgetting that home-team fans absolutely loved the Sedin brothers, Matts Sundin and Alex Ovechkin, just to name a few. If there is one bright spot in the Cherry affair, it is that he has been fired. It should have happened a long time ago. But people also shouldn’t be surprised that some Canadians hold such views. Racist, religious and anti-immigrant behaviour is not far from the surface in Canadian life.
However, as the heading suggests, this column isn’t about discrimination: it’s about the poppy.
To some extent, as pointed out by a number of social media commentators, the poppy has become weaponized, politicized. The other day, I discovered to my horror that I had lost my poppy. I immediately rushed out to buy another one. Why did I feel it necessary to find another poppy in a hurry? It was the thought in the back of my mind that others might see the absence of the iconic symbol and think unkind thoughts about me. I found myself apologizing to Legion members at the Bruins game on Friday because I didn’t have a poppy on my coat.
Actually, I’ve had a bit of a problem with poppies most of my life. When I was a schoolboy, we bought our poppies at school. You could buy either the standard, regular poppy or, for a few shillings more, buy a poppy that had a couple of green leaves attached. I could never afford the more expensive one and remember feeling just a little bit less than those who had the poppy with leaves.
I always buy a poppy, but over recent years there have been more and more articles about the right way and place to wear a poppy. You can’t pin it to your hat, you can’t pin it to the right side of your coat, you can’t pin it on a bag, you can’t hold it in place by pushing small Canada flag pin through the middle, etc. To do so, it was intimated, was to show disrespect to our veterans. Really? I though just the act of buying a poppy was showing respect. However, it now seems that you can push an Indigenous poppy pin through the middle of the traditional poppy. Also, I noticed the aforementioned Cherry wore a poppy that was not your run-of-the-mill flower. So it remains, as it was in my childhood, that there are regular poppies for the unwashed and more expensive poppies for those who can afford them.
As for the poppy itself, who hasn’t lost one or two or even more in the days leading up to Remembrance Day? I know the design of the poppy is deliberately kept simple in order to make it inexpensive and easy to make, therefore leading to more money for veterans, but after all these years isn’t it time for a little innovation? I know that when buying a poppy the volunteers offer a tiny piece of plastic to fit on the end of the pin and hold it in place, but consider this. Given the hundreds of thousands of poppies sold each year, that’s a lot of little plastic beads being discarded into the environment.
As I said, I always buy a poppy and I’m glad to do so. But at what point do people assume that it is your patriotic duty or responsibility as a Canadian citizen to have to buy a poppy? As with any worthwhile fundraising effort, participation should be something you want to do, not something you feel you have to do in order to escape criticism or censure from others.
Tell me, am I wrong?
The Cosmos apologizes for accidentally cutting off the last couple of words from last week’s “Am I Wrong?” column in the print edition of the paper. The missing sentence should have read: It seems to me that the changes announced Saturday shows the government is finally admitting that the responsible ones shouldn’t suffer because of the irresponsible ones. Tell me, am I wrong?
Want to tell Roger Varley if he’s wrong or right?
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