It’s the uniform, stupid

I hate this time of year, partly because winter comes lolloping in on a wave of rain and wind (can you have a wave of wind?) and partly because it’s the time when people talk a lot of poppycock about poppies. There’s nothing can be done about the rain and wind but it’s really time something was done about the poppies.

Poppy-wearing originated in the US but was quickly adopted in Britain and has assumed its most concentrated form there. Fair enough. It’s a natural thing to want to remember those who have fought for their country, especially if you believe that fighting and killing is a heroic activity and the only way to achieve political ends. And to give credit where it’s due, the British do that kind of ceremony very well; even for an outsider it can sometimes be quite moving. The poetry helps as well.

Here, however, in this little corner of Ireland, the poppy is without doubt a political emblem. If you wear it you’re showing not just that you remember the heroic dead (after all there must have been a lot of heroic men fighting for Germany and other countries opposed to Britain down the years) but that you remember the heroic dead who fought in British uniform. Now, like it or lump it, those who wear British army uniform have a poor record in Ireland down the centuries, right up to near the end of the twentieth century. It’d be nice if unionists who believe in wearing the poppy could take that in. Wearing the poppy for nationalists is saying essentially ‘We admire the heroic actions of the British army in conflicts down the decades including here’, and the truth is, nationalists don’t.

So assuming that half the people in the BBC in Belfast who appear before the cameras are nationalists (that’s a reasonable assumption if we go by voting figures), how come EVERYONE who appears on the screen is wearing a poppy? Simple. They have to. If they don’t, their working lives will be blighted. They mightn’t get fired (then again they might) but they certainly won’t have improved their career prospects, and as one who knows the BBC reasonably well, I can tell you that if you rub the nerves of those in power there the wrong way, you ain’t going to go anywhere. Maybe I’m wrong, of course. If you think I am, check with Donna Traynor.

Meanwhile, it’d be nice if the University of Ulster could stop using its power-muscle to intimidate the Student Union up in Coleraine. The Union passed a resolution saying that they’d offer Easter lilies for sale this coming year and give the proceeds to charity. Uh-uh. Apparently that would lead to division in the workplace so it’s not going to happen. After all, the Easter lily commemorates those who fought heroically and died for their country, yes, but they WEREN’T WEARING BRITISH UNIFORMS. See? There is a difference, stupid.

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