Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Why doesn't the US observe Armistice Day? We're more comfortable with war than peace


I get angry and frustrated with each Veterans Day because it’s less about celebrating veterans than easing the guilty conscience of warmongers
conscientious objector
Staff Sgt Camilo Mejia sought to be declared a conscientious objector in 2004 after he saw civilians killed in Iraq. Photograph: Yesikka Vivancos/AP

On 1 June 1954, less than a year after America exited the Korean War in defeat, the US congress got rid of Armistice Day, which was established in 1919, and started Veterans Day. In place of what had been a celebration of peace, Congress instituted an annual veneration of those who fought in war. America would ever after celebrate not the beauty of peace, but its purveyors of state violence in World Wars I and II, Korea, Vietnam, the Dominican Republic, Lebanon, Grenada, Kosovo, Somalia, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan and more.

Governments had meant to do the opposite in 1919: if you go back and read the newspapers of the time closely enough, you can almost hear the collective sigh of relief and jubilation on the first Armistice Day. Millions celebrated peace and renounced war on that November day, a year after the violence in Europe had ended: after the mustard gas stopped burning off soldiers’ skin; after Gatling guns stopped mowing down young boys from mostly poor and working class families; after fighter planes stopped streaking the sky; and after bloody bayonets were wiped clean. In the wake of so much carnage, it was then clear to millions of people that wars were not about valour or romantic ideals, but about empire, which benefits a few at the expense of many.

It took only two more wars fighting for empire before the Americans buried that day’s history as a celebration of peace.

Kurt Vonnegut, a World War II veteran, wrote in 1973:
Armistice Day has become Veterans’ Day. Armistice Day was sacred. Veterans’ Day is not. So I will throw Veterans’ Day over my shoulder. Armistice Day I will keep. I don’t want to throw away any sacred things.
Armistice Day was sacred because it was intended to evoke memories of fear, pain, suffering, military incompetence, greed and destruction on the grandest scale for those who had participated in war, directly and indirectly. Armistice Day was a hallowed anniversary because it was supposed to protect future life from future wars.
 
Veterans Day, instead, celebrates “heroes” and encourages others to dream of playing the hero themselves, covering themselves in valour. But becoming a “hero” means going off to kill and be killed in a future war – or one of our government’s current, unending wars.

Read more at http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/nov/11/us-observe-armistice-day-more-comfortable-war-than-peace

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