Much will be written today about pride and honor regarding those who sacrifice themselves in the service of our country. I share those sentiments. But two years ago I wrote a piece on my thoughts about Veteran’s Day. Though honoring the men and women who fight, it was intended to bring to light one of the reasons the original Armistice Day, from which this holiday derives, was intended for. Those who serve their country while in uniform do so often with the greatest of ideals and with courage. But there is another aspect of war that we all need to be reminded of.
While there is a need to pay homage to those who fight, we must be careful not to glorify war with holidays and parades that overlook the utter destruction of not only what our military goes through but what civilian populations suffer in those areas we send them to fight in. That being said, here is my offering on this day of honoring military sacrifice.
Military personnel are still symbolic of who we honor on Veteran’s Day but more and more the casualties of war are without uniform or rank or combat assignment. They are mothers and children and old men who have gone to the places where they are employed, attended school or where they shop for their food, clothing and other means of livelihood.
They have no armor to protect them from bullets and explosive fragments and their existence has little to do with military decisions or deployments that affect those who have attacked them. The need to retaliate for such atrocities is compelling and essential but not in a manner that has little or no diminishing affect for the causes that prompted or perpetuate such offenses.
Sending a conventional army into a foreign country amongst the civilian population to fight guerrilla-style warfare has historically proven to be a failure. The toll such tactics take on indigent populations fuels greater animosity at the foreign invader than originally existed.
Ultimately the destructive force of combat troops on an innocent civilian population turns any hope of military success into a downward spiral and endless effort, where loss of human life serves only to memorialize such wasted efforts in special days like Veterans Day.
A day of recognition where the political and psychological forces that create and maintain wars, can allow the public to share in this destructive behavior and thus ameliorating a sense of guilt.
By establishing days that honor the dead, we become victims of and party to, a state of mind that continues to believe that such actions are necessary. Instead of reflecting on the secondary meaning of the original Armistice day to engage in efforts that establish and perpetuate peace, we miss the opportunity to incite people to expound upon those things that we share as humans and contribute to life rather than death.
Too many people glibly say they want to avoid war and truly seek universal peace but only a handful fully realize that this requires sacrifices and compromises that has to diminish our sense of superiority. The ingrained mental state that many hold that we are somehow better than our neighbors must be removed.
Cultural differences should be recognized but held to a lower value because our common survival requires acceptance of such differences rather than aggressive competition to enhance those difference. There is no justification for war that does not serve the need to defend one’s life and property.
No concept of total destruction will annihilate the perpetrators of war, real or imagined but will only breed the hate that will keep alive the need to kill more innocent people in the future
Within the comments of all charismatic figures who vainly glorify their nation and its peoples are the seeds of avarice and jealousy which urge some to do whatever needs to be done to maintain our perceived position in the world order.
Their great sin and our great shame is to believe that this is an axiom that needs to be defended at a level by which we are willing to die and kill others for. The time that comes when we no longer have to honor our war dead is the time when we will have achieved the aspirations of those who established Armistice Day following WWI, a day of recognition for what many hoped would serve as a testament to the end of man’s need to kill each other to settle disputes and live in relative peace.
This may seem to be a hope beyond the pale of reality in today’s constant insanity of suicide bombers and “shock and awe” tactics of military might, but it is one that must persist for those future generations that are perhaps more capable of succeeding to achieve this than we have thus far.