Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month

There's commemorative cannon-fire outside my office right now, and I'm more disgusted than moved. Yet more artillery fire seems to me to miss what should be the point.

A Veteran's/ Armistice/ Remembrance Day observed on November 11 in particular shouldn't just mean a gauzy and somber honoring of live veterans and fallen soldiers. It should be in part a day of anger and horror about the particular war that ended on this day, the stupid brutality of it, and the evil that followed in its wake. Of course, no continuously-existing government (US, UK, Canada) is likely to create a day officially dedicated to pointing out that its predecessor contributed to the deaths of millions for no good cause. But we have the capacity to remember lessons other than the official ones.

John Quiggin strikes the right note here.


Anonymous said...

The link is dead.

David said...

To be fair to a past UK government, as Jim Henley points out elsewhere, what you're calling for was a considerable part of the original intention. Done in an officially sanctioned This Must Never Happen Again kind of a way, but done none the less.

Anonymous said...

And of course the comment was posted at 11:11 am. Nice touch.

Michael said...


I tend to agree, and I really appreciate hearing some one else make this call.

When i was growing up in the 1980s and 90s, i thought we commemorated all the dead on remembrance day. Not just allied soldiers who died, but the enemy soldiers, too. and most important of all, i thought we stood in silence to remember the innocent people who got in the way of that bloody mess.

I believed that Remembrance Day was a moment of profound guilt and awareness for what humanity could do to itself. I still believe this, but i find that most people get their backs up when I suggest that there is a lot more going on with Commemorating The Dead than just repeating words like "freedom" and "honour" until they become hyperbole.

DaveLeflar said...

You are so right about this -- Tom Russell said it so well in his song "Veterans Day":

If the hypertexting doesn't come through, just go to YouTube and search Tom Russell Veterans Day

Baba said...
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Will Roberts said...
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Sully said...

It's an ill wind. . .

I was surprised as an early teenager when my dad, a WW2 veteran, told me that his father’s war was altogether a different thing from his – unnecessary and foolish. “It was none of our business, and it really did a lot of good, didn’t it?”

My dad’s father was gone by then, so I took that thought to my mother’s father, who had also fought in WWI, with an artillery unit. I can’t quote him because his english was poor and my italian far worse. The gist of what I got was that it was a good war because it yielded him American citizenship. The work in the army wasn’t easy; but it wasn’t nearly as hard as work for the padrone who was a (unprintable and I doubt I could get translate the italian vehemence into a description). I was quite shocked at the time.

It was the first time in his life he ate any significant amount of meat and the American sargeants were easy to work for next to the overseer on the padrone’s land. They treated you like a person rather than like an animal. Then he told me about gas attacks and how they (the common soldiers) almost looked forward to them. There were gas masks for the horses; but the mess sargeants made sure all the units knew to go slow on getting the masks on weak or sickly horses when supplies of meat were low.

“You ate the horses!”

‘When you’re belly’s empty, Sulliva, you mangia what there is.’

The peasant’s point of view of the wars of the gentry.

Baba said...

'The link is dead.' - the link is okay.

'...a day of anger and horror...' - I hate that day. Why we seem love to fight each others, than to seat together and discuss to find the better solution than to declare war and killing each others. I guess, that very stupid to do. War, hatred and anger are no good at any reason.

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