At one time Remembrance Day and wearing a poppy were solemn occasions. We would gather at the war memorial outside the village and children from the school would stand with the headmaster who had flown Spitfires, the man from the sawmill who had dropped into Arnhem, the local poacher who had been at Anzio and others who remembered sons, husbands and fiancés who didn’t come back.
Gradually this changed until in the late 60’s and 70’s it was scorned as militaristic, imperialistic, and some even considered it fascistic. The ‘right on’ ignored it, fewer people turned up and traffic didn’t stop. Glorifying war wasn’t cool.
Today there is an increasing social conformism demanding some outward mark of respect. Politicians start wearing poppies in October, Jon Snow is excoriated because he doesn’t wear one. Pop groups climb over each other to take part in a charity single for the Royal British Legion and trying to get to No 1 in the charts is seen as a patriotic duty.
In the face of this Islamic fundamentalists, along with republican Celtic supporters, use the occasion to hurl hate and abuse.
When the original content is lost something has to take its place and there is inevitably conflict, cultural and physical, between contenders for the new order. The media manufactured sentimentalism of Wootton Basset is not strong enough to withstand social pressure and will become another casualty when a fresh object of veneration arrives.
In the meantime those who simply wish to remember family, friends or just strangers, ordinary men and women who died and were maimed in the horror of war, are in danger of being swamped.