Time to question the poppy’s appeal?
November 2018 is an opportunity not only to commemorate the end of the First World War but also to critique the politics of commemoration surrounding it. In this context, a new book, Blood Stained Poppy, takes a more critical view. This book argues that the failure to successfully challenge the imperialist slaughter of the Great War allowed the British military to spend much of the following century engaged in violent colonial adventures in every corner of the world. In Malaya, Kenya, Aden, Cyprus, Ireland, Iraq and many other countries, atrocities were committed and innocent people murdered by British forces in the name of empire.
The authors of Blood Stained Poppy, Kevin Rooney and James Heartfield, contend that Britain’s many wars, including the First World War, are nothing to be celebrated. In this context, the red poppy is not a neutral or non-political symbol. Rather, it is an emblem of British imperialism. Official war commemorations invite us to unite in reverential expressions of sorrow and pride. Rooney and Heartfield argue instead for anger and a rejection of official war commemorations and the poppy as symbols of British imperialism. Come along to challenge and question the authors.