Armistice Day was sacred. Veterans’ Day is not… Happy Armistice Day.

vonnegutI don’t dislike the military. I think we, as a nation, spend far too much on it, and I think that we’d ultimately be better served by investing a great deal of that money on education, alternative energy research and any number of other things instead, but, in general, I don’t have an issue with the military. I’m proud of my grandfathers’ service during WWII, and I acknowledge the fact that, had my father not served during the Vietnam War, and learned a trade, I might never have gone to college, or, for that matter, left rural Kentucky. With that said, though, I’m in agreement with Kurt Vonnegut on the subject of Veterans’ Day. Here, for those of you who have never read his brilliant novel Breakfast of Champions, is a clip.

…I will come to a time in my backwards trip when November eleventh, accidentally my birthday, was a sacred day called Armistice Day. When I was a boy, and when Dwayne Hoover was a boy, all the people of all the nations which had fought in the First World War were silent during the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of Armistice Day, which was the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

It was during that minute in nineteen hundred and eighteen, that millions upon millions of human beings stopped butchering one another. I have talked to old men who were on battlefields during that minute. They have told me in one way or another that the sudden silence was the Voice of God. So we still have among us some men who can remember when God spoke clearly to mankind.

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…

I know times change, and references to WWI no longer carry the same significance they may have in the past, but it seems to me that the world could use a holiday dedicated to the absence of war. Which, again, isn’t to say that our men in women in uniform aren’t deserving of respect. They are. The sacrifices they make are enormous. But, with that said, might it not be more meaningful to acknowledge their service with a celebration of peace, rather than a Veterans’ Day sale at the local strip mall and a discounted meal at Hooters?

[The above post first appeared on this site last year, but, as very few people liked it or commented, I thought that I’d try again.]

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16 Comments

  1. Eel
    Posted November 11, 2014 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

    It’s something he apparently thought a lot about. The following is from his book Mother Night:

    “Oh, it’s just so damn cheap, so damn typical.” I said, “This used to be a day in honor of the dead of World War One, but the living couldn’t keep their grubby hands off of it, wanted the glory of the dead for themselves. So typical, so typical. Any time anything of real dignity appears in this country, it’s torn to shreds and thrown to the mob.”

  2. Jordan Miller
    Posted November 11, 2014 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

    Beautifully put.

  3. Gillian
    Posted November 11, 2014 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

    Canadians celebrate Rememberance Day. everyone wears a poppy on their clothes for weeks and flander’s fields is read on TV (a poem that is printed on either the $5 or the $10. because canadians have poetry on their money). anyway i appreciated that it was more about remembering the cost of what the country had been through and not a blanket “support our troops forever no matter what crazy shit we’re getting them into.” and it certainly wasn’t about fucking sales at Macy’s.

    …which led me to google “rememberance day sale” and find out that Gap tried it this year and Canadians aren’t having it. Well done, Canada.

    http://www.torontosun.com/2014/11/11/retailers-face-backlash-over-remembrance-day-promotions

  4. Bob Krzewinski
    Posted November 11, 2014 at 10:33 pm | Permalink

    As a veteran, I find in absolutely revolting that companies use Veterans Day as an excuse to hold a sale. Yeah, people gave years of their lives, OR their lives, for Sears, Penny’s and others to make even more money. If you are sick of this kind of corporate greed, boycott them during the time of year they want everybody to shop – http://www.respectveteransday.org.

  5. anonymous
    Posted November 12, 2014 at 8:24 am | Permalink

    “Thank you for your service, now please come in and redeem your coupon for a half price pumpkin spice latte.”

  6. JJ
    Posted November 12, 2014 at 8:42 am | Permalink

    Show us your stump for 0% financing on a new Ford F150 and we’ll throw in an imported American flag window sticker.

  7. Mr. Y
    Posted November 12, 2014 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    Where’s the love for our non-human warriors? I suggest we add “Thank a Drone Day” to our slate of nationally sanctioned holidays.

  8. K2
    Posted November 12, 2014 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    Have you been following the conservative outrage over Bruce Springsteen’s choice yesterday to include CCR’s “Fortunate Son” in his DC set for veterans? Apparently armchair warriors don’t understand that it’s not “soldier bashing” to remind people that our nation’s rich aren’t sending their kids into battle.

    http://thinkprogress.org/culture/2014/11/12/3591260/bruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuce/

  9. PrincessTinyMeat
    Posted November 12, 2014 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

    hi ho

  10. Posted November 12, 2014 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

    Has anyone ever read the book “Johnny Got His Gun”? You might know the movie from the song “One” by Metallica…the song is based on it. The book is just outstanding and really got me thinking about war. In fact, it was banned around WWII time, which should tell you something right there.

  11. Posted November 12, 2014 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

    K2, Jesus–I hope they never hear Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs”…”they leave battle to the poor”….

  12. Posted November 12, 2014 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

    I was wondering why this post didn’t get more “likes,” as I thought it was both timely and interesting, and then I heard on the news that Kim
    Kardashian had gone public with her much admired ass today
    (NSFW).

  13. Posted November 12, 2014 at 11:04 pm | Permalink

    Oh my God, Mark! I can’t un-see that! I need to pull out my eyes, bleach them and then do a little dance on them to make them forget.

  14. EOS
    Posted November 13, 2014 at 4:44 am | Permalink

    Johnny Got His Gun is an excellent book! The war vet has no arms, legs, sight, or speech. The entire book is a stream of conscious monologue of the thoughts of this man. Powerful anti-war literature.

  15. Posted November 13, 2014 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    Yay, we have something in common EOS :) That makes me happy. It is a great book, and especially heartbreaking when he tries the SOS code. The whole part about him feeling the sun on his face and figuring out day and night…now I want the Mark Maynard Book Club, dammit!

  16. General Demitrios
    Posted November 15, 2014 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    Veteran’s Day itself has been perverted in Michigan because it is before the start of deer hunting season (the next day).

    Unions in Michigan made Veterans Day because of deer hunting, mainly. Now deer hunting is not nearly so popular among the rank and file, so maybe unions can help bring back Armistice Day. The best way to honor a warrior is to celebrate the virtues if peace.

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