Another year, another gloomy parade in front of the Cenotaph. As I watch this conveyor belt of obscure royalty, politicians, and foreign statesmen laying their wreaths at the feet of the dead I realise that Remembrance in 2015 has lost all meaning.

Remembrance Day is bogged down in bullshit.

What used to be a ceremony of solemn reflection, a time to regret the horror of World War I and later wars, an opportunity to think of the lives lost in the meat-grinder of industrialised warfare and vow “never again” has become an empty display of crocodile tears and military pageantry.

Photo: Reuters / Toby Melville
Photo: Reuters / Toby Melville

We think that if we make a show of buying a poppy and bowing our heads for 2 minutes it absolves us of guilt for the other 525, 598 in the year when as a nation we are either quietly complacent or actively rallying to send men and women to the frontline for reasons we’re not even sure of ourselves. Politicians like David Cameron or Tony Blair trying to look sombre put me in mind of a sinner who asks their Lord for forgiveness on Sunday only to carry on sinning the rest of the week.

We place more importance in symbols like the red poppy and the Last Post than in the underlying message. ‘Safe’ war poems like In Flanders Fields will be posted all over your Facebook wall this week, but Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen won’t get a second glance because they did not justify the horrors they had seen and did not think war was in any way noble or glorious.

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The last veterans of WWI are dead and the survivors of WWII are dwindling. The voices of those who were actually there are fading, and just like that a massacre becomes a sacrifice. Instead of expressing regret now we’re supposed to pay tribute to the “glorious dead” and the “brave men and women fighting for their country”, hearts swelling with martial pride. Just like that we’re back where things were when the first “War To End All Wars” began. The purpose of Remembrance has been hijacked by military worship and its symbols stolen by nationalists, and this is not what the fallen would have wanted.

Remembrance Day ceremonies would also have us believe that these wars were fought between soldiers on some isolated battlefield, because rarely is there any mention of the civilian casualties – men, women and children caught in the wrong place at the wrong time who suffered because we just can’t give war up. When’s their day of mourning? Where’s their ceremony? Who will lay a wreath for them?

This month I’ll be wearing a red poppy to remember the people who die in war, but I’ll also be wearing a white poppy to show hope for a peaceful future. You can keep your poppy themed art installations and your TV specials, you can stow your trumpets and shove your Britain First posts up your arse, because I’ll be remembering more than British servicemen and women when I bow my head on Wednesday 11th, and I can only hope you do the same.

So here’s to the people who weren’t doing their duty. Here’s to the people who didn’t die for their country.

Here’s to the families bombed in their beds, the children killed by landmines, and to all those shot as “collateral damage”…

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Normandy, 1944.

Here’s to the deserters who died like dogs and the conscientious objectors who died in shame…

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Shot At Dawn Memorial, Staffordshire.

Here’s to the draft dodgers and the peace protesters shot by their own governments…

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Kent State University, 1970.

Here’s to the unknown dead killed and buried in mass graves for having the “wrong” ancestry or the “wrong” ideas…

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Belsen Concentration Camp, 1945.

Here’s to the hibakusha and the military test subjects who died of radiation poisoning years after the last shot was fired…

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Nagasaki, 1961.

Here’s to the veterans with injuries physical and psychological who were discarded by their own government once they no longer served a political purpose…

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United Kingdom, Now.

And here’s to the younger generation who thought they were doing something noble for their country and went to war with pride, only to find a nightmare they couldn’t possibly have imagined.

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Passchendaele, 1917.
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