One of the most iconic images of November is still in the hearts of many people, young and old throughout the UK. The famous poppy represents the freedom and liberty of millions across Europe, and ensures that we do not forget the pain and suffering that our fathers’ fathers endured, as well as all those male, female, black, white young or old who have died in battle since.
Every year without fail you read an article or interview by a politician somewhere in the UK who voices their concerns that all Remembrance Day traditions, including the service at the Cenotaph in Whitehall, the poppy and the minute silence will eventually be forgotten by the ‘uncaring youths of today.’ I have always, perhaps naively, disregarded these pieces, with the thought that anyone could just forget these precious traditions seeming entirely bizarre, and more so totally disrespectful.
Then came along two young men, Michael Chessum and Daniel Cooper…
In 2012 Daniel, the vice-chairman of the University of London Union (ULU), brought outrage to those students in London he represented, as well as others up and down the UK by banning any member of his union from going to the Remembrance Day service in any official capacity. His reasoning? Daniel condemned the First World War as a ‘legalised mass slaughter’ and refused to attend the service because of his ‘socialist values.’ Michael Chessum, now President of the ULU, had the chance to repel the ban and allow students to attend this years’ service – he didn’t. Instead, he and his council of student reps voted to keep the proposal for this November, and those taking place in the future.
I can tell you now, neither Daniel’s nor Michael’s views represent mine! In fact I’m not really sure they represent even 1% of the 120,000 students they are supposed to be the voice of – with the percentage of students who actually voted in the recent ULU elections so low that the results have been edited out of history.
I am all for free speech. If you do not wish to take part in a form of remembrance then you do not have to, but under no exception should you ever take away the freedom of anyone else who wishes to.
Millions of brave soldiers fought so we could be free – some soldiers scarily younger than myself, Mr Chessum, Mr Cooper or anyone that they claim to represent. To those soldiers I am, and always will be thankful, and I hope that one day those who disregard the custom, one which is very important to Britain, will realise the mistake they have made.
Every November I will wear my poppy without fail, I will pause for those brief couple of minutes and I will remember.