Date: 1st November 2018 at 2:53pm
Written by:

The Mirror. You have to hand it to them. The Daily Record’s sister paper tried to drag Celtic fans into the moral gutter this morning with an article about the folks at Dundee last night telling the chattering classes and the armchair nationalists where they can stick their poppies. And so close to the “WW1 centenary.”

Such bad behaviour … good job it was a quiet night elsewhere, or the writer might not have been able to get this article into the paper.

This is the same every single year.

Guess what? It hasn’t altered our stance one iota.

The Celtic fans who want to wear poppies and pay their respects to the war dead continue to do it. Those who don’t want to be associated with a symbol which they see, rightly or wrongly (rightly, in my book, and you only have to look at how it’s being used against us) as one of British militarism and imperialism, continue to make their voices heard.

This has neither split the Celtic family nor lost us any support which we either already had or wanted to have. Nobody in British football, and few in Europe, are unaware that we are a Scottish club with roots in Ireland. The response to the annual poppycock is hardly a shock.

For openers, we’re a multi-national and multi-ethnic club.

We are not, as some others are, narrowly partisan and wrapped in the Union Jack.

Most intelligent individuals know that the strain of Irish Republicanism in our ranks is for more than just show; a large percentage of our support knows what the wrong side of a British army boot feels like, and their unwillingness to honour those who fought an illegal war in Ireland and then took their show to the Middle East, unleashing carnage and chaos across the region, are fully entitled to make that plain. Those with their own prejudices or biases can try to paint us as they will, but they preach to their own dire choir and they are welcome to do so.

I prefer to quote James McClean, who has been eating dirt for this since 2012, when the first poppies were stitched onto every football jersey whether fans or players liked it or not. He wrote the following to the chairman of Wigan, and it sums up my thought exactly;

“I have complete respect for those who fought and died in both World Wars, many I know were Irish-born. I mourn their deaths like every other decent person and if the Poppy was a symbol only for the lost souls of World War I and II I would wear one. I want to make that 100 per cent clear. But the Poppy is used to remember victims of other conflicts since 1945 and this is where the problem starts for me.”

Where it starts, yes, but not I fear where the problem now ends.

Those who have turned the poppy into a political symbol have a lot to answer for, they really do. Is it a wonder that increasing numbers of people – and not just Celtic fans – are refusing to wear one? Have you seen the latest variant of it which has been turning up on TV? It used to be a lapel badge; how long, I wonder, before it takes up the whole of one side of a suit jacket? How long before it outgrows the side entirely and has to be worn on the back, and presenters are compelled to do their broadcasts to a brick wall, so the viewers can get a good look at that which really matters, the better to demonstrate their “patriotism”?

Extreme? Take a look if you don’t believe me; the once tiny symbol of respectful commemoration has become a gigantic emblem of nationalist fervour, and one that frankly drives too many people out of their nuts. And it has been used to divisive and shocking effect not only in football but in national politics. The dregs of the far-right are amongst its most vocal proponents, and they make a fortune slapping its face onto “commemorative” tat.

I saw one internet gif of arch-goon Tommy Robinson’s face with one in silhouette behind it; the symbol allegedly of two wars against fascism used to promote one of the gutter rats of fascisms modern face. A Sevco fan group stands accused to using it and the symbol of Lee Rigby to make money off; what a dreadful way to attempt to piggy-bag on an appalling crime, which the far right too has adopted as a rallying call.

But this is what it’s all about now, this is what that symbol means.

And I blame those who have spent years promoting it in just such a way, as a test of loyalty to all the uglier aspects of British nationalism. I blame those who cannot contain their rapt fascination – shared by so many people in this country – with this romantic notion that Britain stood alone, that we won the war. And born from that idea, of course, was the repellent notion that the modern EU is simply reunified Germany, trying to take the continent by stealth.

Which led, of course, to the Brexit shambles we find ourselves in … and which, too, the poppy has been shamelessly piggy-backed on, holding it up as a shining example of British exceptionalism. All of it is garbage. All of it is disgusting. All of it is lamentable.

The article in The Mirror called Remembrance Day one where “the nation comes together.” Absolute nonsense, of course, because in recent years it’s divided the country and especially because of articles like that. No-one cared about this enough to write about it or sing about it or get in a flap over it before people started ramming this “symbol of our freedom” down our gullets on an annual basis. I am frankly sick writing about it, sick hearing about it, because I really truly and genuinely have zero interest in the subject at all; I used to wear a white poppy at this time of year, as a symbol of peace and non-violence, but nobody advertises those.

Perhaps it’s high time they did.

Because I always thought the best way to honour those who fought in the two world wars was to make damned sure nothing like it ever happened again.

But listen to England fans, the drunken flower children of the Brexit generation, sing Ten German Bombers and you have to wonder if that sentiment is the one that will carry the day.

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