Earlier on, I wrote about the minute’s silence at Dens, but I don’t want to leave it at that because although I’m pretty frustrated that a legitimate protest on a serious subject has now become tangled up in this issue, I am just as angry that we’ve been, again, put in this invidious position.
My feelings on the minute’s silence are clear. They always have been. A minute’s silence is a solemn, dignified thing. It should be respected. If you can’t bring yourself to respect the cause, then pick another one. It’s easy to do.
Remembrance Day was once a solemn, dignified thing.
But slowly but surely it was hijacked and warped and twisted.
It has now become an enforced ritual; there is nothing solemn or dignified about any of it. It has become a warped, grotesque spectacle which is already a national embarrassment. It risks becoming its own disgrace.
The poppy used to be a matter of personal choice. The wearing of one was voluntary.
The symbol itself was tiny, discreet, like those American flag pins so beloved by their political class over there. No harm in it.
Not today. You see it everywhere, even where it’s inappropriate. Some of the people I’ve seen wearing it look visibly uncomfortable.
But they know they would be far more uncomfortable not to.
Our fans and our club have been eating shit for this nonsense for a decade now.
For what exactly? The silence is only part of it.
Our club was once forced, like others, to wear the gruesome red splotch on the famous jersey, the one worn by German players and Italian players and then, and now, Japanese players. They should never have been put in that position.
No footballer in the modern game should ever be put in that position.
Today before the televised EPL games a ludicrous overwrought “ceremony” was played out for the cameras; a bugle player came out, a remembrance poem was read, the players stood in silence, some doubtless in bafflement, and the fans observed it by staring blankly into the middle distance.
How many do you think were silently paying respect? Not many, I’d wager.
Because this is now just one of those things you do every year,. Some of them scrolled through their mobiles, not even pretending to be thinking of the dead from one war more than 100 years ago, of whom a handful live who remember it.
That war, of course, and the “add-ons.”
And I use that term disparagingly and very deliberately.
Remembrance Sunday was never about the Second World War until it was.
And it was never about the illegal occupation of Ireland or the illegal wars in Iraq and elsewhere. Until it was.
The very extension of the ceremony to include those turned it into a political act … but it ought to have lost its lustre well before then.
How many wars does this island need to glorify itself?
There are people in this nation who would celebrate the Napoleonic War if there was a single celebrity angling for it.
It must disappoint them that there aren’t. Some wars are more equal than others I suppose.
The Great War is history.
We remember it best by remembering what an utter waste of blood and treasure it was.
Not by glorifying the sacrifices of those who died, because they didn’t die for glory.
They died for nothing.
It was a pointless exercise and its triumphalist end was a clear-cut contributing factor to the bigger conflagration which followed it.
And it was in the interim period that one of the cruellest, evilest symbols in history came to be made and fellow human beings made to wear it. It was the yellow Jewish star, which Nazi Germany forced on its own citizens to say “you do not belong.”
Now British football forces its players to wear a big red spot on the jerseys at this time of year, to signify that you do “belong.”
But to what?
A ridiculous comparison? Ask James Maclean that, or the handful of other players who have willingly opted out. Ask them what treatment they get for exercising their right to say “No, mate that’s not for me.”
The point of the comparison is that the symbol is about raw power, that the wearing of it is coerced.
Those handful who refuse to wear it aren’t even the real issue as much as those other players – and there must be hundreds of them if not thousands of them – who don’t feel it represents them or their views but who stay silent because they have been cowed into acquiescence, knowing that they will face bile from the stands and that there’s an entire media industry prepared to grind them to dust for stepping out of line.
The atmosphere around this is toxic because the central point of it has been toxified.
The poppy is no longer a voluntary symbol or a matter of personal choice and that means it is enforced, just as the silence has become compelled and shame heaped on those who won’t observe it.
I may not like that choice, but there are two sides to the debate and I recognise that, and I understand theirs even if I don’t agree with it.
“Remembrance” is now forced on people, either by those in authority or by the threat of public opprobrium and that’s why I’m proud that my club no longer plays ball, that it respects the quiet dignity of Remembrance Day for what it was, but will not bow to what it has become.
And we are not the only club to feel that way.
A handful of others have taken that decision just as a handful of players have.
Just as some celebrities and other public figures have foresworn never to wear the poppy again; because they understand what it is now.
I’m tired of my club and our supporters eating shit over this.
Ten years or more of it is too much.
We aren’t the only people who feel that way. We’re amongst the few who refuse to toe the line.
But the backlash against this grows year on year and the preposterous ceremony before each EPL match is a disquieting sign of a country that has gone mad, the one that voted to leave the EU, which was, in fact, the greatest monument to the end of the Second World War that has ever been constructed, because it was the one which was built to ensure we never got the third act.
This is why the poppy should be removed from football shirts entirely and the glorification of war with which it has become hopelessly entwined brushed back out of our culture until Remembrance Day is back to what it was before.
A silence you observed if you remembered at all, and a symbol you wore only if you genuinely cared.