The Guardian’s Art Blogger Jonathan Jones decided to compare the amazing art installation at the Tower of London as “It’s the inward-looking mood that lets Ukip thrive.”. He bemoaned the lack or remembrance for all the others who died in the “Great War” on all sides – but he misses the point of this cascade of poppies.
Like the great war poets, journalists, painters and writers this piece of art is to make you think. There are no surviving soldiers of that war, but today we still send men and women across the world to “fight for their country” and this beautiful display is to remind us that while there will be 888,246 ceramic red flowers – one for each British life lost – we will always have to add another. It’s not introspective, in fact quite the opposite. I strongly believe that the power and influence of art in these areas is to make us consider where in the human psyche that war, violence and peace reside.
Many people forget that the poppy symbolises our support for all troops in all wars from WWII to Kosovo, Afghanistan to the current battle against Islamic State. It’s easy to think of the poppy as a historical thing but it’s more relevant than ever. I do understand the pacifist view that we shouldn’t be fighting at all – of course we all want peace in our time, but others take a different and more violent view – but the reality is we should support our troops no matter what. This doesn’t mean we have to wave flags and support illegal wars, but that we as a country should support and take care of those who are put in that position when they return home.
There is also a school of thought that any family or friends who bemoan the death of their loved ones in the line of duty should understand that that is the job, and I have some sympathy for that viewpoint. If you choose to go into the armed forces then you should know the potential consequences. On the other hand the amount of soldiers now returning maimed and dismembered requiring both physical and mental healthcare should get all they need to get back to some sort of normality. Just look at the recent Invictus games and how those who faced life altering injuries are being helped to conquer anything thrown at them. Their resolve and attitudes are to be supported and celebrated.
As much as I remember and respect those who fought for our freedom in the two world wars of the twentieth century – including my grandparents and great grandparents – the Poppy Appeal’s relevance today is as important as ever. The art installation at the Tower of London reflects the hundred years since that have passed since the First World War and those who fought and died for their King and Country and is a thing of genuine beauty and reflection. To call it “a deeply aestheticised, prettified and toothless war memorial” show disrespect for the artists and the public who have flocked to see and pay their respects, but more so for all who those delicate flowers represent and to those who they continue to.
Wear your poppy with pride in November and remember whomever is or was important to you. Even the Guardian cannot take that from you.