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It occurred to me that for the first time I can remember I didn't wear a poppy this year. It wasn't a conscious act but it does reflect a change in my attitudes. I have relatives alive and dead who have served including one currently in the armed forces and a good proportion of the inadequate donations I give to charity go to veterans mainly in response to fundraising efforts of friends and family.On reflection my lack of a poppy this year was possibly a reaction to the 'poppy facism' that has become increasingly prevalent. Anyone appearing on TV is regularly casigated if they don't wear a poppy to the point that every presenter and guest on a show does all the way through the remembrance period.One of the strengths of this country has always been the unwillingness of people to conform or gather around symbols in an unthinking way. It could be argued that the very thing that many service people gave their lives for is undermined by people trying to enforce poppy compliance.People seeking to enforce observance seem to believe it should be a compulsory part of living and working in this country even if you are not a British national. Anybody who has attended a football match where James Maclean is playing can tell you about the vitreol he attracts for the perfectly understandable refusal to wear a poppy. British soldiers did afterall gun down unarmed civilians in his native city. I'm sure a silent majority of the crowds at these matches are disgusted by his treatment and feel that it compromises the value of the poppy as symbol of remembrance.There is a danger that younger generations will abandon wearing poppies if the most vociferous advocates for wearing it are extreme right wing headbangers. This change would come at a dangerous time as the veterans of wars which were generally regarded as unambiguously good from a moral point of view such as the Second World War are quickly dying off and the remaining ex-service personal in most need of support are from more complex conflicts such as the Falklands, Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan. A far higher proportion of people who fought in these conflicts survived with injuries that left them leaving permanent support or struggling with PTSD, so the need to raise funds for veterans is not declining. A sharp decline in money raised from poppies would not be coming at a good time.

Mark Evans ● 86d