With all due respect to our nation’s veterans, I’m celebrating 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 a few yeas ago, but, as very few people liked it or commented, I thought that I’d try again.]

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  1. Elf
    Posted November 11, 2015 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

    It’s hard to sustain a holiday dedicated to the end of war in a nation that thrives in a state of perpetual war.

  2. Jcp2
    Posted November 11, 2015 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

    We have a day honoring the war dead already. Memorial Day, older than Armistice Day or Remembrance Day. Veterans Day is to honor the service of the living.

  3. Bob Krzewinski
    Posted November 11, 2015 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

    For what its worth, we read the very same Kurt Vonnegut (who was a WW2 veteran) quote at our Veterans For Peace Arlington Michigan display (one cross – 229 total – for every Michigan soldier killed in the Iraq/Afghan wars) at Ann Arbor’s Veterans Park today at 11am, when we traditionally have a short peace ceremony.

    PS – As a veteran, I hope there is a special place in hell for corporate managements that use Veterans Day/Armistice Day to hold a “sale” (like Kohls, JC Penny, Amazon, Target. Best Buy to name a few). You’re all not honoring veterans, you are whores using veterans to make money.

  4. anonymous
    Posted November 11, 2015 at 9:35 pm | Permalink

    Armistice Day was not so much to “honor the war dead,” Jcp2, as to celebrate peace, or the absence of war.

  5. Jean Henry
    Posted November 11, 2015 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

    Being anti-war is inherently a position of great privilege– a luxury not everyone can afford. A lot like not serving in the military. I’m happy to pay my respects to those who serve in our armed forces so that I didn’t have to– or my kids I hope. I think it’s especially important to take time to acknowledge those very young men and women who are the under-served walking wounded among us. I’d rather thank them than celebrate the idea/fantasy of peace. It’s not like WW1 was an entirely honorable war (is there one?) or that its end bore great results– at least for Europe. America did just great. Why is it that every holiday has become an opportunity for political and ideological grandstanding by both sides? How about we just have a parade and a picnic?

  6. Jean Henry
    Posted November 11, 2015 at 10:19 pm | Permalink

    Just a reminder that “the War to End all Wars” didn’t. Not even close.

  7. Kim
    Posted November 11, 2015 at 10:37 pm | Permalink

    Jean, is it not worth taking 1 day out of 365 to consider what life might be like without war?

  8. Dan
    Posted November 11, 2015 at 11:24 pm | Permalink


    Is it not worth taking 1 day out of 365 to pay thanks to those that have risked their lives to protect yours?

  9. Dan
    Posted November 11, 2015 at 11:30 pm | Permalink

    Why the hell can you not celebrate peace and still acknowledge all of those that have risked their lives so that you can post bullshit like this on the internet?

    Is your to-do list limited to 1 thing per day?

    Stop acting like we all don’t know what you really mean.

  10. Frosted Flakes
    Posted November 11, 2015 at 11:35 pm | Permalink

    On veteran’s day, I think normal people, more than usual, reflect on healthy veterans, wounded veterans, dead veterans, the horrors of war, the possibilities of peace, all the innocent young people caught up in war…..All kinds of stuff….What sort of mindset puts such a high importance on the “branding” of the day as if the name is some sort of narrow dictate to be followed?

  11. Peter Larson
    Posted November 12, 2015 at 12:53 am | Permalink

    “Why the hell can you not celebrate peace and still acknowledge all of those that have risked their lives so that you can post bullshit like this on the internet?”

    Which war since World War II presented immediate threats to liberal democracy in the United States? I’m afraid I’m at a loss as to which one that might be.

    In fact, it seems that our entry into Afghanistan and Iraq helped whittle away individual liberties in the US, rather than protect them.

  12. Peter Larson
    Posted November 12, 2015 at 12:55 am | Permalink

    The US needs fewer holidays over warfare. Even a faux holiday like Armistice Day is somewhat dubious.

  13. Jcp2
    Posted November 12, 2015 at 3:47 am | Permalink

    If Armistice Day was to celebrate peace and not honor those killed in WWI, then why is there a minute of silence at 11:00 am? What are the red poppies for? It’s called Remembrance Day in Canada and other Commonwealth nations because it was, up to that point, the war that caused the greatest number of casualties for those countries. I can understand why it carries relatively less significance here. The war that caused the greatest number of U.S. casualties is the Civil War, from which we derive Memorial Day. If we include Independence Dat, we have three war memorial days, one for our existence, one looking outward, and one looking inward.

  14. Frosted Flakes
    Posted November 12, 2015 at 6:22 am | Permalink

    I don’t have any problem honoring the soldiers and simultaneously holding onto my belief that most of our wars are not valid or not good ideas strategically. I might be wrong but I think a lot of people reflect on the dead and injured on our “enemies” side too.

  15. Anonymous
    Posted November 12, 2015 at 6:25 am | Permalink

    There is no better way to honor our men and women in uniform than to discuss peace.

  16. Jean Henry
    Posted November 12, 2015 at 6:46 am | Permalink

    Kim– I can think of no better way to ‘reflect upon peace’ than to acknowledge those who have sacrificed in war. People of privilege, sitting around in their safe homes, well removed from geo-political strife, holding hands and talking about how to promote peace or imagining world peace is self-indulgent bs, on the other hand. All it does is calm their fear and anxiety. It has never caused one war to be prevented, conducted with minimal damage or ended. Acknowledging the cumulative sacrifice and limited reward, on the other hand, seems to have some chilling effect on our war fever.

  17. Frosted Flakes
    Posted November 12, 2015 at 6:46 am | Permalink

    Also, the term “veteran” does not mean “war veteran”. It includes all who have served in military service in times of war and peace. Faux holiday? Dubious? Say’s who? Should we all follow EOS’s interpretation of the bible. Should we consult Peter and Mark on how to celebrate a holiday. Please tell us which days we should consider sacred and which days are just “meh”.

  18. Art
    Posted November 12, 2015 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    It’s worth pointing out, I think, that they only veteran to have commented on this thread thus far is Bob, who agrees with the sentiment expressed by both Mark and Vonnegut.

  19. John Galt
    Posted November 12, 2015 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    Thank you for speaking the truth, Jean. War is inevitable, and people should just have a picnic and shut the fuck up about the fantasy of peace.

  20. kjc
    Posted November 12, 2015 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    wow, it’s like some people think one thing and other people think another.

  21. Katch
    Posted November 12, 2015 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    Do people just read the headlines on this site, or to they actually read the posts themselves? No where here does Mark say that veterans aren’t deserving of respect. He’s merely noting the roots of veterans’ day, and suggesting we begin looking at the holiday through that lens again.

  22. Frosted Flakes
    Posted November 12, 2015 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    That is weird, Katch. Not one person accused Mark of not respecting veterans.

  23. Jean Henry
    Posted November 12, 2015 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    Ha John Galt– That is totally what I meant! You know what is better than picnics? Peace gatherings. Those do a lot to promote peace. Let’s all hold hands and pray for peace.

  24. Jean Henry
    Posted November 12, 2015 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    And while we all hold hands in our peace circle, let’s silently judge or pity those who serve in the military.

  25. Frosted Flakes
    Posted November 12, 2015 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    Yes. The judging should be silent. We should also use pre-emptive rhetoric to thwart possible criticism from war lovers. We don’t want the annoyance of criticism to interfere with our silent judging.

  26. Lynne
    Posted November 12, 2015 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    This is the best essay (sorry Mark, yours is good too) that I saw on the subject yesterday.


  27. kjc
    Posted November 12, 2015 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    jean, you’ve been in ann arbor too long.

  28. Brainless
    Posted November 12, 2015 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    I’ll start honoring soldiers as soon as someone pays me to do it. THAT is the American way.




  29. Jean Henry
    Posted November 12, 2015 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    True enough, KJC.

  30. charlieRomeo
    Posted November 15, 2015 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

    Fuck the vets. I piss on these freeloading socialists. The military is a socialist paradise. They feed you, clothe you, birth you, and coddle you from cradle to grave.

  31. EOS
    Posted November 16, 2015 at 6:00 am | Permalink

    It was the men on the battlefield that were most moved by the minute of silence, as it is the men who have fought in battle who hate war the most. Those who were injured or lost friends are those who have significant personal understanding of the need to end war and preserve peace by all means. When you are considered government property and your country considers you expendable it has a life changing impact. When the rules of engagement prevent you from winning the battle or even having an equal advantage with the enemy, you tend to get bitter. Most veterans hate war far more than any of you. The individuals who put their life on the line to preserve our freedoms deserve our utmost respect – far more than any nondescript peace ideology. How easy do you think it is to convince groups like ISIS to share your vision of a peaceful utopia?

  32. charlieRomeo
    Posted November 16, 2015 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    Fuck the vets. War is a racket.

  33. charlieRomeo
    Posted November 17, 2015 at 1:30 am | Permalink


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