This isn’t a new story to some of you but it is fairly recent, a man had apparently got himself sacked for refusing to remove a Remembrance Poppy from his shirt whilst working a shift at his local KFC, the argument for it being that the small plastic flower is a foreign body and could contaminate the food if it fell in. Now, the title probably gives some hints as to my stance on this matter, I side with KFC here, the newspapers apparently ran to defend “the young father” (damning hypocrisy there, especially from papers like The Daily Mail, who usually are first in line to speak foul of my generation) but take away the sentiment of the poppy and you have a small piece of paper and plastic, pinned to a shirt and there’s a chance that the pin could fall out and plop, poppy in a fryer, or worse, pin in the food. Imagine the PR nightmare KFC would face there if someone got a pin lodged in their throat because someone dropped their poppy in the food. Not pretty. Anyway, there’s more to this story so I’ll fill you in a little further.
As usual, the media madness around this fairly small incident is ridiculous, there’s no official confirmation that the said employee has been fired, the store to blame saying the incident is being looked over but there’s been no sacking involved and it is a clear policy that any foreign bodies (i.e anything that isn’t uniform) is not allowed in the kitchen because of health and safety. Understandable, these guys are handling food, you don’t want to find whatever pocket lint they’ve been playing with in your meal – coins, pill packaging, pens – stuff you don’t want in a Boneless Banquet. Of course, the issue here is this is no ordinary “I’m 21 today!” badge or whatever, this is a poppy, a symbol of proud tribute to the veterans of global conflicts, something much more meaningful than all the other stuff. I have some qualms about that…
Firstly, the employee was told to take it off until the end of the shift, that’s all, it is no big deal and everyone there is perfectly aware the guy is respectful of veterans, there will be no inspection in which he has to present it or face grave dishonour. Take it off, do your job, get on with you life and there you go, no harm done to anyone. The actual physical poppy itself means very little and wearing it in October doesn’t make you extra special and respectful of these past heroes, what matters is what the poppy represents. If you are taking the polite request, based on health and safety, to not wear a badge on your chest and put it away for the time being as an attack on you and your faith in a cause, it doesn’t speak volumes for that faith. Refusing to remove the poppy doesn’t show integrity or solidarity, it shows pig-headedness and a foolish level of pride in basically paying a pittance into a charity box to show you gave a shit. Granted, if we all pay pocket change to a cause, it adds up but one guy alone standing and saying they won’t take a badge off, even though it makes sense for him to do so, is not an act of martyrdom or national pride, it’s an idiot grabbing attention for himself. Heck, he’s succeeded, the papers played up his story like a real tragedy, the bunch of blithering bloodthirsty bastards, scared of a politically correct era, I wouldn’t be surprised if they blamed this incident on a Muslim infiltration scheme tearing apart British tradition. Poppies are paper and plastic, a little thing to give out to say thanks, what matters most to a charity is what you contribute to it, not how proudly you cling to that token thank you they handed you.
I’m all for wearing a poppy, for the right reasons. I wear a poppy but I do so in memory of the veterans of the World Wars, the ones we owe British freedom as we know it to. I don’t agree it stands as a symbol for every single soldier in the world, we didn’t fight for our righteousness in Iraq and Afghanistan, there was no clear moral duty to intervene like there was against Hitler. The poppy was chosen because it grew on Flanders Fields after the war had ended, a sign that even through tragedy, life prevails and that the world moves on. I don’t want to besmirch the efforts of veterans, kudos to them definitely, brave fellows indeed, but us wearing a poppy doesn’t make us bastions of British values. You are no better than someone else for wearing a poppy if they’re not, all that flower says is “I paid 50p to a charity you didn’t!”. Same goes for the pink ribbon, wearing that symbol hasn’t suddenly made you a paragon of virtue, it simply shows you cared enough to reach into your purse or wallet and make some donation. I know I’d bark back if someone pointed to the absence of a poppy on my chest and said “Do you not care about the efforts of our soldiers?”, my response would be “I don’t know, do you not care about poverty? Because I give AT LEAST four hours a week to fighting against it, what are you doing for those veterans?”
Symbols are meaningless, what they represent is what matters and clinging to the symbol in the face of everything, even common sense and/or the health and safety of others isn’t admirable or pitiable, it’s just misconceived heroic stoicism. You care for a cause that strongly? Contribute! If you’re so damn proud of veterans, get out there and do them a favour, there’s plenty of them slumming it on the streets, do you give your time to shelters or rallying people to fight for better treatment of soldiers? Do not get caught up in thinking your once-a-year donation of fifty pence makes you a saint, it means very little in the end. If you bought one hundred poppies in your lifetime, that’s still only fifty pounds you ever gave to that charity, is that the grand total sum of your care? Symbols mean nothing if the idea behind them is second to the person bearing the symbol