A poppy created and sold on eBay by Julie Fearnley in 2018. Photo C/O Julie Fearnley. 

By Sarah Homsi, Contributor

cw: homophobia

As vibrant, red poppies take residence on jackets and over people’s hearts, they act as a solemn symbol to remind us of those who have fallen during times of war. 

This year, the lead up to Remembrance Day feels different. My various social media platforms have been overwhelmed with people disputing the rainbow poppy. Some are seething over its alleged disrespect to the symbolic and traditional red poppy, as they believe that breaking the tradition of having a red poppy, which represents remembrance and peace, will dishonour our veterans. Meanwhile, others are applauding its inclusion of a historically persecuted group, because it recognizes the 2SLGBTQ+ veterans that have fought for us. The Internet has not been this divided since the white/gold versus blue/black dress fiasco of 2016. As is the case for most viral internet debates, misinformation is being spread.

Images can often convey news faster than words. The image of the rainbow poppy that has been circulating online, a grainy yet colourful enamel pin on a black background, was taken from a UK-based seller’s eBay page. This seller has been selling the item for many years but has since taken it down due to the controversy. 

As many of us have borne witness to people getting in heated debates over the rainbow poppy, ask yourself if you have actually seen anyone donning it. While people have been fervently accusing members of the 2SLBGTQ+ community of pushing the “gay” agenda, it should be noted that the rainbow poppy was never part of any sort of campaign from members of this community. Rather, it was something being sold on eBay that Twitter discovered, which resulted in arguments on what is the most appropriate way to honour our veterans.

Regardless of whether or not the rainbow poppy was put forward to be distributed and worn in November — even though they were not made with the intention of being widely distributed and worn — one cannot ignore the hate that was spread as a result of this dispute. Those adamantly opposed to the rainbow poppy seem to be using it as an opportunity to condemn the 2SLGBTQ+ community, promoting a fictitious narrative that there was actually a plan to make rainbow poppies a mainstay.

Apparently, anything other than a red poppy is disrespectful to some, despite the existence of purple, white and black poppies, all holding a different meaning. Those arguing against red poppies are implying that representation has no place when we honour those who have fought. A lot of the arguments made against the rainbow poppy were instances of homophobia, masked under the guise of saying these arguments were intended to respect the vets. Some people have made it very clear that they can pick and choose which lives to honour, and which to not. 

Whether or not you support the existence of a rainbow poppy, we should all take the time to reflect on why we remember, as well as refrain from propagating hate rooted in baseless claims. Remembrance Day is about remembering those who risked their lives for our country, but we must also remember the groups our history textbooks often don’t cover. Their lives have just as much meaning. Additionally, we should all reflect on how quickly we share random images on social media without giving them a second thought.

 

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