Summary: The evolution of the Armistice Day into Veteran’s Day mirrors the evolution of America into an increasingly militaristic State. Let’s use today as a time to reflect on this change, and on the long series of mostly futile wars that has accompanied it.
A powerful thought for us on Veteran’s Day from One Hour’s Stour, posted at Unqualified Offerings, 11 November 2009:
Wikipedia has the short, sad story of how Armistice Day – a holiday “dedicated to the cause of world peace” – became, as of 1954, a day honoring the military as such.
I regret the change. The US already had Memorial Day for military members killed in action, and Armed Forces Day began in 1950. A third military-focused holiday would already be overkill even if it wasn’t a perversion of the original meaning of November 11 remembrances.
As John Quiggin reminds us today, November 11 marks the blessed if temporary end to one of the great calamities – crimes – visited on people by their leaders, and by people on each other. It is meant to be a day dedicated to hating the waste and sin of war.
While the impulse behind Veteran’s Day seems “grass roots” enough, it depended on the assent of the powerful to enact it.You can see why the government would have embraced a chance to change that holiday’s focus. As for me, I’ll exercise my personal veto. Happy Armistice Day.
That passage gives the essential point about Veteran’s Day. It evolved from a celebration of peace and the end of a mad war, to another flag-waving celebration of war. This matches the evolution of America from a self-absorbed nation, devoted to commerce, to a militaristic imperial State.
Veteran’s Day offers a second lesson to us: that not all wars are WW2, great wars against evil bringing forth a new and better world. Most of our wars have been more closely resembled WW1 — with some combination of …
- fought for delusional reasons,
- Americans’ excitement about the war aroused by propaganda,
- inconclusive or even inimical results for America and the world,
- from which we learned nothing.
Despite our glorification of war and the military, large wars (State to State violence) have seldom worked well for America. The slaughter of the Civil War ended slavery, but slavery ended without such war almost everywhere else — and without America’s century-long stain of Jim Crow (state-sanctioned terrorism against Blacks). WW1 was followed by our failure to join the League of Nations that we advocated — and then the madness of the Versailles Treaty, the Great Depression, Hitler, and WW2. We botched the Korean War on every level.
And last, the serial failures — repeated mistakes — of the 4GWs in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
Note the downward spiral. Bin Laden’s massive success on 9-11 lured America into a great mistake. Now our ruling elites — and of course our government — see the world as a battlefield. Including the “Homeland”. We have turned onto a dark road, which almost certainly requires the end of the Second Republic, the America-that-once-war, and will lead to a bad end for us.
Every holiday is a moment for reflection on our past, present, and future. We can learn from our past, make resolutions today, and build a better future. It can begin on this Veteran’s Day. Learning and resolving to do better are the greatest reward we can give to their sacrifices.
For More Information
Historical notes on holidays:
- On this important date let’s remember the past and look forward to our future, 2 March 2013 — The Articles of Confederation ratified
- A thought for and about Memorial Day, 28 May 2012
- How can we better honor our vets on Memorial Day?, 27 May 2013
- What we should Americans do on the 4th of July?, 4 July 2010
- Advice from the past about ways to celebrate Independence Day, 4 July 2013
- On this Labor Day, let’s remember what unions have done for America,2 September 2013
- The pilgrimage of Martin Luther King: an antidote to our amnesia about America’s history, 14 September 2013
- Looking back on USMC thanksgivings, reminding us of things for which we should be grateful, 24 November 2011
- Let’s give thanks for America’s luck, and try to deserve it!, 22 November 2012
- I’ll Be Home for Christmas – Marines in WWII, 25 December 2011
- Good news for Christmas, 25 December 2012