Sunday, November 16, 2014

A Reflection: Armistice Day, ‘The War to End All Wars,’ Now Veterans Day, A Different Intent

The Armistice/Remembrance Day Poppy
(Poppies still proliferate World War I battlefields) 
I remember when Armistice Day was dedicated to the pursuit of world peace. But today, Veterans’ Day is a very different celebration than what was then Armistice Day. Veterans Day has evolved to a day we celebrate by venerating our veterans, overwhelming idolizing our war’s combat veterans, in doing so, glorifying war.

“The war to end all wars” is a catchphrase associated with The Great War, World War I. The war’s hostilities stopped on November 11, 1918. The signing of an armistice in 1919 officially ended the war. In November 1919, President Wilson commemorated November 11 as Armistice Day in remembrance of The Great War. In 1938, Congress acted to make November 11, Armistice Day, a legal holiday, “a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace ….” In 1954, President Eisenhower redesignated Armistice Day as Veterans Day, originally a day to honor all who served in America’s armed forces. 

Today, Veterans’ Day has nothing to do with ending war and nurturing peace. Instead, we here the catchphrases Support Our Troops and “thank you for your service.” Those who voice those phrases are disingenuous and self-serving. They essentially are saying, “Look at me, see how patriotic I am.” Or, perhaps we're actually saying without knowing it, “better you than me.”

In many countries, November 11 is Remembrance Day. Others still celebrate the day as Armistice Day. In these countries, it’s a day to display the symbolic red poppy as a public act of remembrance. As a kid, I remember an America where red poppies were also a public act of remembrance, a day to reflect on the ravages of war and a commitment that war must end.

What we’ve done instead is support never ending wars. Three of our more recent wars have been America’s longest wars: Vietnam, Afghanistan, and the war Iraqi Freedom. There have been six major wars, and now the probability of a third in Iraq, since the end of “The war to end all wars.” Remembrance Day has become Veterans Day, acceptance day of war.

What we should be saying to our veterans is “I’m sorry” and begging for forgiveness. Forgiveness for not standing up for you over the years; sorry for destroying your lives and the lives of your loved ones; Sorry for not taking care of you when you finally did come home.

We also should be saying that we are sorry for not carrying through with the same demands that ended the Vietnam War, continuing to demand vigorously that there will be no future war.

Copyright © 2014 Horatio Green