Posted by James McPherson on November 11, 2011
“Remembrance Day” was another term for “Armistice Day,” commemorating the Nov. 11, 1918, cessation of hostilities on the Western Front of World War I–the war some then called “the war to end all wars.”
Those folks were wrong, of course. We can’t seem to get enough of war, so Armistice Day–signifying the partial end of one in a long and unending series of wars–needed a new, more all-inclusive name. Veterans Day isn’t enough to close the stock market (perhaps you should invest in war stocks), but there will be a cool college basketball game on an aircraft carrier. How long before an announcer says a team or player “came out firing” or “dropped in a bomb,” do you suppose?
In the meantime, yesterday was yet another “remembrance day” for Judy Shepard. She spoke to a big crowd at Whitworth University, sharing the story of her son, Matthew. He was beaten to death 13 years ago because he was gay.
Judy Shepard has been talking about “the meaning of Matthew” in person, on the web, and through her writing ever since. The fact that she was invited to speak here, and was so well received, made me proud yet again to be associated with such an enlightened Christian institution.
Though as a society we obviously have a long way to go, Shepard has seen changes in the treatment of gays–less fear in the eyes of her audiences, a country in which most Americans now support gay marriage, and of course the repeal of the ludicrous “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
The repeal means that today is the first Veterans Day in which openly gay service members can rightfully be honored for their sacrifices–including sacrifices that their heterosexual brothers and sisters in arms were never asked to make.
Perhaps one day we’ll live to see a day in which we don’t call upon our young people to die on our behalf, either at home or abroad. Now that would be an Armistice Day truly worth celebrating.
Posted in Politics | Tagged: Armistice Day, Judy Shepard, Matthew Shepard, Remembrance Day, Veterans Day | 3 Comments »
Posted by James McPherson on November 11, 2008
Appropriately for today, the 90th anniversary of the ended of the supposed “war to end all wars,” CNN has has a story about American World War II vets who were held in a Nazi slave camp, and then forced by their own government to keep quiet about it for more than 60 years.
Meanwhile, at the same time this morning, the second story on Fox News Web site is titled, “GOP Rep. Claims Obama wants ‘Nazi’-Like Security Force.” That’s the sort of hyperbole that gives Fox its good reputation among thinkers, of course, but also the kind of language used all too frequently by operatives of all political stripes for whom “Nazi” is a favorite fallback term for anyone who disagrees with them.
Most importantly, though, that is the kind of language that throughout American history men, and increasing numbers of women (remember when conservatives opposed letting women be killed in battle?), have fought and died to protect. Even though after 9/11 some “patriots” suggested that critics of the nation should just shut up, and President Bush suggested shopping as a way the non-soldiers among us could fight terrorism, most of us recognize that free speech is among the most important gifts our military protects.
Unfortunately presidents are all too willing to call upon that military to engage in stupid misadventures abroad. Those in the military then sacrifice so that others can shop and spew nonsense. In the words of Carl Sandburg, “And They Obey.” Today, let’s thank them. Better yet, let’s revitalize our efforts to reduce the likelihood that in the future we’ll be remembering new waves of them after their deaths.
Below, see a Pete Seeger medley of American war songs, and a video of Bruce Springsteen doing a live version of Seeger’s “Bring Them Home“:
Posted in History, Journalism, Poetry, Politics, Video | Tagged: American war songs, And They Obey, anti-war poem, Barack Obama, Bring 'em home, Bring Them Home, Bruce Springsteen, Carl Sandburg, CNN, Fox News, George W. Bush, Nazi, Nazi slave camp, Pete Seeger, Poetry, Veterans Day, war deaths, war songs, war to end all wars, World War I, World War II | 2 Comments »