Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veterans' Day

Today is Veterans' Day, which, of course, was originally started as Armistice Day, the day commemorating the end of the First World War. Part of the following I am recycling and expanding upon from a comment I left on another blog.

I have always found it interesting that Veterans' Day is now what we used to call Armistice Day. The shift being from a day remembering the End of the War to End All Wars to simply remembering those who fought in wars. Certainly, I have the utmost respect for Veterans. Don't get me wrong. It is certainly important to remember those who laid it all on the line in the service of their country. I just find ironic that a day that initially was created to primarily remember and celebrate Peace has been revised to primarily remember the Veterans of War for their own sake and no so much to remember Peace and the Price of Peace.

World War I was such a tragedy in so many ways. Its largely the forgotten war of the 20th Century. Most people have no real idea what WWI was about. Conventional wisdom usually gives that dubious honor to the Korean War, but at least the Korean War is/was remembered by the excellent movie/TV series M*A*S*H, and most people can at least give some form of a coherent reason for the Korean War (re: it had to do with the Cold War and Communism.)

Some people might recall if they were awake for any part of their high school American History Class that WWI was started by a certain assassination of Archduke Ferdinand. Few can tell you any more than that, much less how an assassination of a royal by a revolutionary yahoo could bring the entire world into a war.

What was so tragic about WWI was that it was completely preventable and was a conflict that was basically pointless, but once the dogs of war were unleashed, there was basically no stopping it until one side or the other, literally, ran out men and material.

What was so desperately sad about the war was most of the people that were getting killed at the front really had no idea why their lives were being destroyed. They were still largely fighting with Napoleonic war tactics with notions of honor and heroic charges and all that. The horrid fact was that the science that had given such incredible breakthroughs like electricity, flying machines, etc., was now being perverted into the making of mustard gas, machine guns, and the original weapon of mass destruction: barbed wire.

And as poem ‘In Flanders Fields’ touches upon, the war went on for so long that the “point” of the war was no longer valour or nationalism or defending innocent people against tyranny, but had devolved into a mentality that said, “millions of my comrades and buddies have died, so we have to keep fighting not to fulfill some greater humanitarian purpose but to give their death some meaning; otherwise they died in vain.”

As I see it, that was the real tragedy of the war, that that was, in the end, the only reason to fight: to throw our lives away so that those whose lives have already been thrown away won’t have thrown them away for no real discernable purpose. Self-justifying and cyclical brutality for its own sake. That’s the ultimate no-win situation as “the War to End All Wars” was, in fact, only the beginning.

This is a fact that I think is lost with the shift from "Armistice" Day to "Veterans' " Day. I think we should have days devoted to both, as to conflate the two into one allows for the subsuming of the one issue at the expense of the other.

1 comment:

Heidi said...

Great post, Archer.