Today is Armistice Day. One hundred years ago today the world celebrated the end of World War I. There was great jubilation in the streets because over the previous four years, most of the globe had grown weary of war and their hearts rejoiced that the war had finally ended.
What have we learned in the hundred years since Armistice Day? Shortly after, there was another world war. The U.S. continued in wars, including the Korean War, the Vietnam War, The First Gulf War and the current global war on terror where the U.S is bombing at least 7 countries. In addition, according to a US News and World Report article, the U.S. is conducting military operations in at least 70 countries or 40% of the world’s nations. As Dr. King said over 50 years ago, the U.S. government is the “…greatest purveyor of violence in the world.” And like him, I cannot be silent, even though today I am supposed to be appreciative to those who thank me for my service. And I am supposed to thank current service members who are “protecting” me.
It seems clear to me that over the past 100 years the U.S. government has learned, if nothing else, how to wage wars more efficiently. But efficiency does not mean more humanely or with a true moral compass because war by definition is cruel, inhumane and full of moral contradictions. As the fictional character in Apocalypse Now, COL Kurtz said in an eerie tone, “The Horror…the horror……. You have to have men who are moral… and at the same time who are able to utilize their primordial instincts to kill without feeling… without passion… without judgment… without judgment! Because it’s judgment that defeats us.”
And as the real-life U.S. Civil War general Sherman warned, “You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will. War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it.”
Why would I celebrate such a terrible activity? I do not.
Today, Armistice Day that has been co-opted as Veterans Day, should be a day to think about ending war. A day to contemplate, is war necessary and how can we use all our talents and know how to end it? Today we really do have the capacity to kill billions of people at the push of a button, yet there is no day to reflect on what that means and how we can ensure it does not happen. We blindly follow the lead of those who took a day that celebrated peace and changed it to a day that uplifts and celebrates warriors. And we continue down a path of endless war, send the warrior heroes as we call them, to die abroad and when they return home.
While I am appreciative to those who want to thank me for my service, and I respect those who are in the military – I was one them. I do not celebrate Veterans Day. Thank me for my service by working to end war, so that my grandchildren and your children and grandchildren do not see or feel the horrors of war. End war so that my brothers and sisters no longer come home maimed and mentally broken. End war so that the resources we waste on killing can be used to promote life. Make sure that our nation lives up to the freedoms our national leaders claim I was protecting when I went to war. Stop whitewashing what war is. Stop pretending that we are not sending our children to kill other people’s children.
The truth is the poor are sent to fight the poor. Those who send us to fight sacrifice the least and gain the most. Those who fight, sacrifice the most and gain very little if anything. So, they thank us for our service to make us feel good and accept the absurdity of the situation.
Thank me for my service by remembering that this is really Armistice Day. A day to celebrate peace and contemplate ending all wars, for no war is a good war. We may have fought it to “protect” ourselves, but innocent civilians; men, women, and children always die in the crossfire of war, especially today’s war. That is the nature of war. It is cruel, and you cannot refine it.