Happy Armistice Day!

by Will on November 11, 2010

This is a song that has received criticism and mockery over the years, but I’m willing to stand by it without apology:

“War is a friend only to the undertaker.”

This is why I will always bristle at the notion that on November 11, we ought to be celebrating any holiday other than Armistice Day. The veterans do of course deserve their due, but Memorial Day is a perfectly good recognition of their service. Armistice Day was intended to celebrate the end of World War I. The end of that vicious folly was a great event in history, even though all the principal players immediately went on to screw it up. When humans manage to agree to stop fighting, that is a good thing. It deserves celebration.

Update: In comments, reader g quotes the following wonderful passage from Breakfast of Champions, by Kurt Vonnegut:

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.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

g November 11, 2010 at 9:57 pm

I thought of this post of yours when I read this quote on another blog I follow:

from Kurt Vonnegut’s preface to Breakfast of Champions (via Reader’s Almanac: The official blog of The Library of America):

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.

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