Thursday, 10 March 2011

So I Burnt Some Poppies... So What?

20/03/12 - WE had those excitable bods from The English Defence League outside the office earlier today wanting to shout stuff and wave their fists at some poor kid who said stupid things about Our Boys. Teenagers Say The Stupidest Things... It's hardly news is it? It wouldn't make a radical new cutting edge reality show would it?

They are very hot-headed though aren't they, those EDL types? They're different from us. Do you think it's a genetic thing? Anyway, let them shake their fists and SHOUT STUFF  if they want to. It's a free country. And I'm sort of the opinion that we should be able to say more or unless anything we like... and last year - November, Poppy Day time - I wrote this about that very thing. And today with the EDL SHOUTING STUFF outside - well, it seems worth repeating...

November 2011

Earlier tonight it was getting pretty nippy so I lit a fire and onto it I tossed a whole box full of British Legion poppies. Whoosh they went as the little paper petals caught, creating a fierce little blaze for a moment or two. Perfect kindling for the American flag which I also threw on. Old Glory goes up well. It could have been made for burning. You could heat a house for a week on one coffin sized number. But I wasn't done. I also burnt a Union Jack, a Koran, a Bible, a copy of London Calling by The Clash, a Shakespeare First Folio, and a rare video recording of an episode of the Likely Lads from 1965.

Like I said - it was a cold night.

This week there was a bit of a fuss in the papers because an anti-war protester publicly burned a poppy and was only fined £50. I must have burned at least a grand's worth. And this is why. If our soldiers fight for anything, isn't it for the right for citizens to say what we like? To make political gestures? To create visual metaphors encapsulating our feelings about the state of things?

If we offend one another, well, OK let's be offended. I love The Clash, but if people want to take the piss out of them, then that is fine. And even I have to concede that 1-2 Crush On You (B-side of Tommy Gun) is a bit shit. So I added their best LP to the pyre just because I can.

All of us have to face the fact that stuff we really, really love means fuck all to some people. They hate it. And that might include the Royal Family, the prophet Mohammed (may his name be praised etc), Bob Marley, Joe Strummer, plays, poetry, the British constitution and the American Dream.

The thing that makes our democracies great (and yes, you might not think they're that great. That's your right and you can burn something emblematic of our culture to prove it if you like) is that - in theory - we are allowed to say what we like, think what we like and, if it doesn't hurt other people, do what we like. Or we should be. But the ranks of the Offended seem to swell daily and it's a shame that we've got so touchy.

(Btw - I didn't really burn a rare copy of an episode of the Likely Lads. Of course I didn't. That really would be sacrilege.)