ON Sunday, 30 January, 1972, 14 innocent people were murdered on the streets of Derry by the British army.
On Saturday, 10 November, 2012, a footballer from Derry – from the Creggan Estate, the same as six of the victims – decides not to wear a symbol that commemorates those who have fallen in service of … the British army.
For this, his name has been dragged into the sewer by this society’s lunatics, who are making inroads in their quest to take over the asylum.
Social media has given the once silent majority of people a platform to express their views. This is a good thing.
Most people use Twitter responsibly but there’s a noisy minority of nutters who are hell bent on reducing national and international conversations to the din of a digitally-empowered rolling lynch mob.
They rarely stop to think before venting their outrage. If they did, they would realise that castigating a sportsman from Derry for not wearing a poppy makes as much sense as expressing your disgust at a sportsman from Guildford who doesn’t want to don a symbol that pays tribute to those who died while on active service for the IRA.
But the mob don’t see that because they are, well, a mob.
This unthinking rump are also unlikely to see the irony in the fact that pinning a poppy to their chest they are giving thanks for – among other things – the defeat of fascism.
People are free to express views and opinions that they wouldn’t have if they lived under Nazi rule. They are free to wear the poppy, or not to wear the poppy.
Channel 4 news presenter Jon Snow cited “poppy fascism” two years ago and was, predictably, slaughtered by the crazies. Snow, to his eternal credit, told his abusers to “get on yer bike”, adding, “Hitler lost the war”.
You can see why Snow spoke out initially. It seems almost mandatory to wear a poppy if you appear on television here any time in early November.
My impression of Britain when I lived in Ireland was that the poppy was part of the national uniform at this time of year. Only after I moved did I learn that the TV had given me a false reading.
Lots of people do wear a poppy, on remembrance Sunday and throughout early November. But, as far as I can see, most people don’t.
Are the people who took to Twitter to berate James McClean going to run up and down their local high street shouting in the face of everybody without a poppy on their jacket? The way things are heading, you almost wouldn’t be surprised to see that happen.
The poppy has become more than a symbol of remembrance, with Britain engaged in overseas conflict for most of this century, it is now a badge of support for “our boys.”
Like poppy fascism, the lionising of the troops has gotten way out of hand. It’s tragic so many young people are heading to Afghanistan to fight and not coming back – looking at the list of soldiers who died since last year, and the fact that many of them are so young makes it all the more harrowing.
As the names scrolled on the TV screens yesterday, you thought of the waste, the devastation to their families and you wondered how many joined the army because they wanted to fight for Queen and country, and how many did so because a life of shooting at others and being shot at was their best chance of a relatively well-paid job in present-day Britain.
Since 2001, 438 British troops have died in Afghanistan. Nobody knows how many civilians have died in Afghanistan and Iraq since the invasions. Conservative estimates put it at 132,000.
Civilians made no choice to join an army, received no training on how to survive in a war zone.
Soldiers, at least, signed up. They knew conflict was likely. Unfortunately for them, the British army is not a defensive one. It hasn’t been since World War 2. The troops are not defending the nation from foreign invasion. They are dying – and killing – thousands of miles away.
The loss of British life is tragic but it’s on a small scale compared to that of the occupied people’s. Every year, solemn tribute is paid to British troops who died while doing their job. If the same solemn tribute was paid to the countless innocent victims of British troops then maybe more people like James McClean – who can naturally relate far more to the victims than the military – would wear the poppy.
But then, maybe he wouldn’t. In a civilised country, it would be his choice to make.