A poppy for your thoughts?

When I was a kid, there was no Halloween. Living in the leafy suburbs of first Johannesburg, and then PE, I knew about Guy Fawkes night, but the American witch-stuff was unknown, outside of comics and cartoons.

Now, the Halloween tradition seems everywhere, although my dogs do a good job at keeping my neighbourhood”s brats from my front porch, and I get to eat all the candy myself.

Death permeates Halloween, as it does another tradition – the wearing of poppies.

In the run-up to Remembrance Sunday (this coming weekend  – the 12th of November) you can walk though any mall or along any High Street in Britain, and you will see a poppy-seller.

Watch a British TV news channel and the poppies are on almost every lapel.

Not so here in South Africa.

You may have recently seen a poppy seller, but I haven’t. No reminders the Flanders’ fields displayed on the lapels of our besuited classes.

Why not?

I know there are mixed feelings about our war veterans.   There were many brave South Africa soldiers in the great wars,  but there were elements in South Africa who supported the other side. So, should we just forget this troubled past?  Not in my lifetime.

Poppy Day is not about hatred; it is about heroism. It is the way to support and honour those who fought, and the many who died, in defence of freedom.

It is different freedom to that of Nelson Mandela, but it is a noble freedom nonetheless.

I have had relatives who fought in the wars, and they were far braver and more heroic than I could ever hope to be.

So let us sell poppies in South Africa. Millions of them.  And raise millions of rands for the veterans of this country, black and white, some of whose bravery may have been politically complicated, but it was bravery nonetheless.

And let those poppies remind us of the horror and the sacrifice which war involves.

We must never forget.

We shall never forget.

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