Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Some members of the Royal Canadian Legion...(updated)

...may want to check the meaning of the word 'denigration'.  I'm trying to see the problem with a white poppy campaign calling for peaceful conflict resolution and am coming up nearly empty. Lest we forget that Remembrance Day isn't about glorifying war, or the armed forces, or trivialities like the legal ownership of symbols. If it were, they'd be rolling squadrons of Leopards in poppy-garlands down the high street like some May Day parade. No, we have cenotaphs and vast cemeteries scattered across the globe, and now a new generation of veterans to remind us of why this Day. The only thing being denigrated by the PEI peace commmittee is war itself and I really can't find fault with that.   

The Royal Canadian Legion is upset over a new campaign launched by the Island Peace Committee on Prince Edward Island. The Legion wants the group to stop distributing white poppies. The Legion's red-poppy campaign is underway, selling the traditional symbol in remembrance of those who died in war. Peace committee members say their white version stands for non-violent conflict resolution.
"The people who are distributing these poppies are normally people who have never spent a day in the service of their country in their lives," Jim Ross, president of the Legion's P.E.I. provincial command, told CBC News on Monday. "To denigrate a symbol of the remembrance of people who died for this country certainly is emotional."

I am sure the spirits of the dead and the haunted living would much prefer we solve our problems in keeping with the white poppies (right Jim?). And reading the rest of it, I think our Mr. Ross also has a little trouble with the meaning of "service". But I digress.

However, there is much fault to found with the denigration at the Campbellford Legion:

A small-town Ontario restaurant owner says a Royal Canadian Legion Halloween party awarded first prize to a person in Ku Klux Klan robes leading a man in blackface at the end of a rope.Mark Andrade says he has never experienced anything as disgusting as what he saw at a Campbellford, Ont., legion on Saturday night. Andrade says he arrived at the legion for a beer at about 11:30 p.m. — just as Halloween costumes were being judged.
Andrade, who is black, says the person dressed as a Klansman and the man in blackface won first prize, and he left in disgust. He says what angered him even more about the incident was that it was a Royal Canadian Legion hosted party and it was legion members who awarded the prize. Andrade says when he called the legion on Monday to complain he was told hundreds of others had also called in protest. Legion officials, who could not be immediately reached for comment, reportedly issued an apology Tuesday.

Yeah, it seems some need reminding of something alright.

Update 3 November: CBC reports that the Legion command in Ontario has closed the Campbellford branch and the police are looking at the matter.
Edward Pigeau, president of the legion's Ontario branch, also said Wednesday he is closing the legion after it received threats.
"It's utter stupidity. First of all they should not have permitted them to come into the legion. And I'm outraged that they would give them first prize," Pigeau said. "Could you be more insensitive? I'm absolutely outraged by it. "We will do our best that something repulsive like this won't happen again. This will go out across the legions in Canada."
Yes, exactly.


harebell said...

At the end of the day follow the money
A lot of what the red poppies raise goes to those in need.
All of what the white poppies raise goes to an ideological cause and its hangers on.
I guess that they could be needy, but it's not quite the same.

Boris said...

I think that if that were the RCL's criticism, they might have a point.

But they, well at least Mr. Ross, seem to be attacking the symbolism aspect in a most distasteful 'hippie civvie pukes who don't get it' kind of way. I recall a similar fluff over the sanctity of symbols and custom occurring over Sikh turbans and the protocol of headress removal upon entering Legions. Some of the more reactionary members were quite happy to ban Sikh veterans over it.

Hmm. One might also think that narrow interpretations of the poppy conform to an ideology of sorts too.

Boris said...

There's also nothing preventing someone from wearing two poppies on Remembrance Day.

harebell said...

I agree that the RCL response was terrible and reeked of geezerism.
I guess I looked into it to see if those doing the white poppy thing were actually supporting those in need, or seeking to use those in need as a means of publicising/funding themselves. They were.
Using this time of year and a variant on a well respected icon to do this is parasitism.
The Phelps clan use the bodies of service people to push their religious beliefs and the harpercons do it to deflect inquiry into their misdeeds and we rightly knock them for it. These folk just have better PR.
Your definition of ideology sounds a little too wishy washy too. Raising money to give to those in need is not the same as using the same needy to push your agenda or line your own pockets. Both are founded on ideals, one is self-serving.

Boris said...

I would disagree with the white poppy peace folks as simply having 'better PR" than the Phelps clowns. It should go without saying that the substance and the context of are very different.

According to the peace group:
"I don't think (it's disrespectful)," Broderick said. "Most of the people I talk to believe the red poppy symbolizes the respect we need to pay for those (soldiers) who died (in war), but the white poppy goes beyond and asks that all people who have died as a result of war be remembered."

I think there's a legitmate discussion to be had about what the poppy symbolises and this along with ownership rights, as I've said, seems to be the thrust of the argument by the RCL. I find this particularly distasteful. Are school children drawing poppies or gardners growing and selling them also in breach of Legion trademark?

Unless you're listening to Laurie Hawn, most Remembrance Day ceremonies I've observed or participated in involve speeches implicitly or explicitly calling for the end to war...yet the RCL seems to see this as an attack on their institution and veterans. If the white-poppy is parasitism, the RCL smells strongly of geezerism and self-aggrandisement.

This could be handled much differently, say by the Legion brass and the peace group sitting down and discussing it...

harebell said...

I think you are still reaching a little to include examples of others using the symbol.
Do the kids and gardeners produce them around 11th November?
Do they then sell them and pocket the money themselves?
As there has recently been a push to designate 21st September world peace day wouldn't that be a great occasion for the white poppy mob to focus on? Hey they could even use a symbol that has traditionally been used for peace - white dove. Or if they wanted to go for a more contemporary symbol a white rose.
Nope sorry, they use the 11th November and a poppy because nothing sells like controversy and the PR is cheap.
As far as caring for those who are suffering, obviously not enough to actually part with any money to actually do anything concrete to help. All the money they raise goes to them, the majority of the money the RCL raises goes to real people to really help them.
Parasites with a veneer of caring.

Boris said...

As I've said, I'm not denying your point at all, but I am attacking the RCL's position on this because I think it's misguided.

If the Legion had framed their objection to be about the poppy fund benefits, my post would have been different. However, they haven't done that, focussing instead on symbolic and legal issues.

harebell said...

I guess at that point we are discussing at cross purposes.
I have no problems with the charge of geezerism being directed at the geezers, it was well founded. They chose a seriously crappy tack to take in response to something that could have been attacked on highly justifiable grounds. A sad indictment of the intellectual level of the leadership of the RCL indeed.
I just can't think of anything I like about how the the white poppy gang conducts itself.

Boris said...

It's all good - I was glad for your comments!

Hmm, our discussion has also given me an idea for another post that might raise another hackle or two ;) I'll see if I can find the time to put it together over the next few days.

harebell said...

Thoughtful challenges to the intellectual status quo are always fun.
I cannae wait