Armistice Day and What We Honor

November 11, 2010 | 33 comments
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Today is Armistice Day. You were supposed to bow your head in a minute of silence at 11:11 today, the 11th day of the 11th month of the year, in recognition that peace was achieved at that time in 1919, ending what we now call the First World War. Did you do it?”

Neither did I. In the United States Armistice Day was renamed Veterans Day in 1954, mainly because an Emporia, Kansas shoe store owner felt that all Veterans should be honored, instead of just those who served in World War I. I surmise from this that even Armistice Day was largely a recognition of those who served in the military.

However, a friend posted on facebook the following quote from Kurt Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions today, leading me to think a bit more about these holidays and what they mean:

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 an…other 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. So I will throw Veterans’ Day over my shoulder. Armistice Day I will keep. I don’t want to throw away any sacred things.

I disagree with Vonnegut in part. Veterans deserve honor.

If going to war was simply a matter of wanting to participate in a bloodsport, I might agree. But many of those who served didn’t have a choice–they were drafted or conscripted. Others needed work or a way out of poverty, and took advantage of the incentives we, as a nation, provide. Still others have strong feelings of patriotism, and join in an effort to serve their fellow citizens. Given the hell they had to face in actual battle, it is hard to believe that many veterans actually enjoyed that portion of their service.

So, yes, Veterans Day is, or should be, sacred.

BUT, Vonnegut does have a point, at least in my view. The armistice was a peace, the cessation of a horrible war. It is a shame to loose something so sacred as the celebration of peace. And in that sense, I’d rather have Armistice Day, a celebration of achieving peace.

Like all elements of our culture, our holidays say something about who we are and what we value. With Memorial Day we have two holidays that celebrate the sacrifices of those who have served our nation. Perhaps that is right and good. But, couldn’t we have one holiday that is meant to celebrate peace? Isn’t peace even more sacred?

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33 Responses to Armistice Day and What We Honor

  1. George Orwell on November 11, 2010 at 8:30 pm

    Umm, Kent, it was 1918, as Vonnegut states.

  2. Dan on November 11, 2010 at 9:25 pm

    we’re several generations removed now from the end of that terrible war, and we’ve forgotten just how horrible it was. I think you make a great point that we already have a day in which we celebrate those who serve in the military for our country. I’d appreciate it if Americans had a day for remembering the end of war rather than adoration of warriors.

  3. Julia on November 11, 2010 at 10:11 pm

    I so agree. I value the service of our veterans. I work at the VA and know how much they have willingly and not-so gave up during their military careers. They definitely deserve our respect.

    However, I think that the initial meaning and reverence of the holiday has been lost. Over and over on my facebook, I saw “Happy Veterans Day” as if it was the same sort of holiday as Valentine’s or Columbus Day. I mourn that we have lost the symbolism of the poppy – stained red for blood or white for peace.

    Today, on my facebook, I posted articles and poems about Armistice Day. I’m not sure that anybody noticed.

    And yes, I had my personal moment of silence at 11:11.

    Re: #1: You’re right. The treaty of peace was signed in 1918 on 11/11. But the official end of the war wasn’t until June of 1919.

  4. Mark B. on November 11, 2010 at 11:47 pm

    Actually, it was 11:00, not 11:11.

    The Armistice was signed at about 5:00 a.m. on that November morning, to go into effect six hours later. Recent research suggests that there were over 10,000 Allied casualties during that six-hour stretch–which emphasizes even more what a wonderful blessing the end of hostilities actually was.

    The treaty came in Versailles in June 1919. But calling what came out of Versailles a “treaty of peace” wouldn’t have been appropriate in 1919, much less 20 years later when the fruits of that misbegotten document were ripening.

    As to our American holiday: I’m with Vonnegut. Or with my Canadian wife and children: there it’s Remembrance Day, all the people wear red poppies in their lapels for a week or two before the day, everything stops at 11:00 for a minute or two of silence, and people remember the terrible costs imposed by war. It were well that we did the same, instead of using this as one more excuse to sell socks and underwear and second-rate home furnishings, or as one more excuse to engage in jingoism.

    It’s not a day to celebrate victory, or to celebrate our nation’s soldiers–but to remember those who have borne the battle and their widows and orphans. If we did more remembering, maybe there would be fewer new soldiers and widows and orphans to add to our remembrance.

  5. SUNNofaB.C.Rich on November 12, 2010 at 1:50 am

    I’d like to invite Dan to find some WWII, Korean war, Vietnam, Desert Storm and OIF/OEF vets and explain to them that they don’t deserve a holiday because they surived the war (Memorial Day being for remembering those who died) Dan can further elaborate how much he, being a first generation immigrant (from a country aligned with the Axis forces in WWII) to the United States does not appreciate anyone who fought to end or fought up to the end of any war that happened after WWI. Mark B. can then jump in and explain that November 11th is to remember those who have “borne the battle”. Mark B. can tell this to guys who stormed the beachs at Normandy, fought in Inchon or the battle of Hue, or fought in Desert Storm or OIF/OEF. He can tell them they haven’t “borne the battle”. He can piously tell them how he observed 60 seconds of silence to remember the terrible costs of war. He can tell this to people who ALWAYS remember the terrible cost of war.

    A guy kind of like me would probably punch both of them in the face.

  6. c on November 12, 2010 at 3:22 am

    #5, you’re right of course. About them deserving a holiday. I’m not sure it’s appropriate to have said to those veterans, “You deserve a day, why not combine it with another day?”

    It’s like telling your wife that you want to do something special for her birthday so you’re taking her out for a nice meal on your wedding anniversary, even though the dates are 6 months a part. Why combine the days?

    Is it too much to have two?

  7. Kent Larsen on November 12, 2010 at 7:12 am

    Hold on! Rich (5) you are overreacting. No one is suggesting that veterans do not deserve honor or that they be deprived of recognition. The point here is only that if we have Memorial Day and Veterans Day, couldn’t we also have a day that focuses on Peace!

  8. Mark B. on November 12, 2010 at 7:53 am

    It appears that Rich read something that bears not even a passing resemblance to anything I wrote.

    If you think that Vonnegut (who passed through his own version of hell during the Second World War–try reading Slaughterhouse Five) or I believe that the remembering that Armistice Day should provoke should be limited to those who fought and bled and died in the First World War, you’ve missed his (and my) point entirely.

    Let me try again: whatever we “celebrate” on November 11 should not be patriotism, or militarism or the glories of victory in war. Instead, the day should be one of remembering the terrible cost of war. Calling it Armistice Day, or Remembrance Day, is a first step in that direction–since in our whole bloody history, there is perhaps no better example of pointless slaughter of millions than the First World War–but it in no way limits our remembering to those who fought in that useless war.

    As to your ad hominem attack on Dan–that’s surely one of the cheapest shots I’ve seen in this medium that thrives on them.

  9. RogerDodger on November 12, 2010 at 8:31 am

    I think you might be on to something. Consider Elder Nelson’s wonderful conference talk nearly a decade ago on “Blessed Are The Peacemakers.” Unfortunately, most members I know were so caught up in war fever at the time that they completely ignored Elder Nelson’s remarks. It’s wonderful to honor those who served their country in uniform — it’s something we should do — but honoring peace and peacemakers should not be lost in all the hubub.

  10. Dan on November 12, 2010 at 9:04 am

    SUNN is pissed that I speak out against the glory of the American fighting warrior and its warmongering ways. SUNN would be the guy who would be upset that he couldn’t get in one more kill in that five hour period from when armistice was signed and it going in effect.

  11. Kent Larsen on November 12, 2010 at 9:24 am

    Once again, let’s tone this down. Just because Rich overreacted in (5) doesn’t mean that everyone can jump on him.

  12. Tiffany on November 12, 2010 at 9:42 am

    I suddenly got the meaning of Armistice Day 3 years ago, when I stumbled upon a World War I cemetary in Beersheba, Israel. It was filled with graves of boys from Australia and England. To my great surprise there was a fresh wreath laid on the main memorial. This war that I vaguely knew about, took on fresh meaning, as I wandered around reading the names of boys who gave their lives to their countries. It was humbling and prompted me to study more about WWI.
    So on Veterans Day, I honor those who have served, still serve and will serve. But I will never forget those boys lying in graves thousands of miles from their homes. I desperately wish that the Armistice would have created a lasting peace. I sometimes wonder if those millions of soldiers who gave their lives in that conflict wonder if their sacrifice was worth it, since we can’t seem to get ourselves out of war.

  13. Dan on November 12, 2010 at 9:59 am

    Kent,

    There hasn’t been a pile on. The two people SUNN insulted replied back, rightly so.

  14. SUNNofaB.C.Rich on November 12, 2010 at 8:19 pm

    I probably did overreact to Mark B’s comment (I’ve read Slaughterhouse 5, seen the movie too. Hannah Montana and Billy the Kid get abducted by German aliens great stuff…) Dan’s comment is garbage. That guy jumps at the chance to trash the U.S. military. You want a day to remember the end of war, Dan? How about VE day and VJ day? I think you can remember both of those on both Veteran’s day and Memorial day.

  15. Dan on November 12, 2010 at 8:24 pm

    I don’t trash the US military, SUNN. I trash the symbolic American warrior that we worship, maybe even revere. As if our freedoms were given to us by our military. Phooey! Our military is not our master, and we do not bow down to them. We honor their service and their sacrifice, but we do them a disservice when we constantly put them into war without end. Talk about trashing the military!

  16. SUNNofaB.C.Rich on November 12, 2010 at 11:41 pm

    Gotta keep those Vets in check huh Dan, gotta stop em from trying to make everybody worship and revere them. Better take away their holiday before they start to think the rest of society cares. Hogwash.

  17. Kent Larsen on November 13, 2010 at 12:03 am

    SUNN, I think you are trying to defend something not at issue. This post isn’t about taking away a holiday from veterans. Its about whether there should be a holiday promoting peace and ending war. Its not about taking anything away, its about adding something of value, and by doing so, shifting the overall emphasis towards peace.

    Why do you feel that this is a threat to veterans?

  18. Jon on November 13, 2010 at 9:21 am

    Yes, war is a very sensitive issue as I am finding out. Even if you say anything negative about war or the military and its leaders people go hysterical. Even if they agree that war is bad.

    I agree we should focus on the peace holidays and think that veteran’s day takes away from the focus on peace. I went out east recently and it’s interesting to see all the war memorials, glorifying war. It appears to me that one of the false gods that we worship today is war and its warriors. People forget that the military isn’t what makes us free but only God. If the people don’t worship God and obey His commandments then God will over run us, no matter how mighty our military is. God can defeat a million soldiers with no men if he chose to. Remember what the scriptures say. When we are faithful God will soften the hearts of our enemies and they will not prevail over us.

    My brother-in-law got after me for saying that people shouldn’t join the military today and we should follow the example of Mormon and abstain from being in the military until we stop fighting offensive wars. He said that the military is a good thing since it changes young people’s lives and gives them a sense of purpose. I think wouldn’t it be wonderful if, instead of using war and teaching our young men and women to kill, that we teach them to serve one another and to go to other countries to share the words of Christ and give service to those in need? Is not the power of persuasion greater than the sword?

    I will only honor those who protect my freedoms. Those in the military today do not protect my freedoms but on the contrary are leading the country to destruction, as the Lord destroyed the earth with a flood for violence so will he destroy us if we do not repent. I disagree with the sentiment that it’s are leaders who have sinned and not us. It is only the people that let the wars continue, not are leaders. If the people used the free market to reject war (i.e., abstain from joining) then we would see true change and only then. I do not fault those in the military who do not understand that the US is fighting immoral wars but when they do understand I would fault them for staying in the military.

  19. Kent Larsen on November 13, 2010 at 7:42 pm

    Jon, don’t you think that the issue is a bit more complex than this? I mean, soldiers are usually committed for a certain period of time, they usually can’t leave when they want to. It is also their livelihood, and in many cases they don’t have many options for work outside of the military.

    Then there are the people who are in the military but who don’t actually fight. What about them? Are they also obligated to leave the military when they come to agree with you?

    Finally, what about those who simply disagree with your position, even though they understand it perfectly? You do realize that honest people can look at the exact same information you have and come to a different conclusion, right?

  20. SUNNofaB.C.Rich on November 13, 2010 at 8:37 pm

    Oh, Dan doesn’t quite make the distinction he says he does, Kent. He’s pandering your basic message in words but he probably spent all Nov.11th giving dirty looks to old men in their WWII uniforms. Your statement about “promoting peace and ending war” is something you can already get from Veterans day. Dan apparently wants to do away with the holiday altogether. Just like on Perry Mason, some aggressive cross examination will get him to admit how he really feels.

    “Yes, war is a very sensitive issue as I am finding out.”

    Gee, did you just figure out that bears go to the bathroom in the woods too?

  21. Military wife on November 14, 2010 at 12:12 pm

    I do not fault those in the military who do not understand that the US is fighting immoral wars but when they do understand I would fault them for staying in the military.

    So you would rather the military was full of clueless drones. Really? I get so frustrated when people assume that if you are in the military, you are either war-loving or have no other choice because you have no other skills or no other way to support your family. My husband is a military officer because it was the right thing for him to become. He had plenty of other options and we had never even considered the military, but when it came to it, bit of us felt very strongly that it was where god wanted us to be. He was raised by all-out hippies and We both think war is horrible, and that this war we are involved in was completely mishandled from the start. So you really think my peace-loving husband should bail? Wouldn’t you much rather he was leading the troops than someone who considered all Muslims to be the enemy?

  22. Jon on November 15, 2010 at 10:16 am

    Kent Larsen,

    Sure there might be some nuances/exceptions but I think in general what I have said holds true.

    The constitution says:

    “All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills.”

    So the power of Congress (the House of Representatives) against the president to hold the peace is in the power of the purse. We have seen, through history, how ineffective this power is since it is objectionable to not to “support the troops.” But when the government doesn’t do that which is just and right (they don’t obey the natural laws of God) it is up to the people to correct the problems. It is their God given right and duty, as seen in the Declaration of Independence.

    “When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation….that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it.”

    To answer your questions more specifically. Soldiers can leave the military by saying their beliefs no longer fit in the role of the military, i.e., conscientious objection. There are lawyers that can help. There is a group called veterans against war or something like that where they can get help.

    You ask about the ones that don’t fight? If a person wanted work but couldn’t find any but there was a position open as a paper processor at an abortion clinic, is it right that they support such an organization?

    I also ask you, what should man choose, God or mammon?

    Your last question I’ll answer in my response to Military wife.

    SUNNofaB.C.Rich,

    We all learn at different rates and differently. I approach the subject from logic, not from emotion. Or, at least I try and keep as much emotion out of it as possible. I do not proclaim that I am always right, neither to I proclaim that I don’t have the right to change my opinions given a good argument to the contrary.

    Military wife,

    I do not wish the military was full of fullish drones but that’s the way it is headed. I wish for a limited military that was only a fraction of the size it is now. I wish that we would not be an empire occupying over 200 (I believe that was the number) countries.

    Yes, if the spirit told your husband to do that which he has done then it is what God wants. But I do think he should be proclaiming peace while he is there and educating those in the military on peace and what is just war and what is not. Maybe it’s his mission to teach as many as possible so they can leave the military. I do not know.

    I’m a strong believer in the free market and there is nothing more patriotic to stop a government that is becoming (or is) despotic/totalitarian. History has shown that countries that become more and more militaristic also become more tyrannical (just go to the airport sometime and you can easily see what I am talking about with the federal government performing strip searches on the population, no other government has ever done this).

    The mormanity blog just posted a good post on this subject where he quotes Kimball on the god of steal. False god indeed.

    http://mormanity.blogspot.com/2010/11/prayer-of-children-thank-you-kurt.html

    Here’s a talk where I formed much of my opinions (and confirmed them through reading the scriptures):
    Video:
    http://www.lewrockwell.com/vance/vance156.html
    Text:
    http://www.lewrockwell.com/vance/vance143.html

  23. Crick on November 15, 2010 at 6:20 pm

    Thanks Military Wife. While you and I have different perspectives about the current conflict, we obviously need smart people in the military. In a Democracy we get to disagree but the War’s are still in everyone’s name. We can’t have a military that just fights when it agrees with the particular war.

  24. Jon on November 15, 2010 at 8:41 pm

    Crick,

    “We can’t have a military that just fights when it agrees with the particular war.”

    Is not that how we won the revolutionary war? If we did fight wars with only the wars we agreed with wouldn’t that mean we wouldn’t have needless, unjust wars (or at least less of them)? We originally didn’t have a standing military (which I don’t think would be practical now days) so wouldn’t that mean that’s how we operated before? Of course, we still had needless war because of the government propaganda machine. We are in a current state of endless war (as said by are fearless leaders in the head of the military) which has been warned against by many military people of the past.

    BTW, my views are shared by some military veterans too. The Lew Rockwell link goes to an article by Laurence Vance and he’s pretty hard core, but he says there are veterans that take even are harder stance than him. So I feel validated for my concerns by history, scriptures, modern day prophets, logic, and humanity. Let me know if you have a good argument to the contrary.

  25. SUNNofaB.C.Rich on November 15, 2010 at 9:52 pm

    So if I understand you correctly Jon, you want a standing military that can just not show up to work whenever they want. Think about it. Is that really a good idea? It’s not as easy as pulling your muzzle loader out of the hay pile. Jets, missiles, helicopters, tanks etc etc. also I just wanted to point out that you said we “occupied” more than 200 countries, when there’s only 193 internationally recognized sovreign states.

  26. Jon on November 16, 2010 at 1:11 am

    Yeah, I put a qualifier by that remark because I didn’t remember. So I looked it up. 157 regions, 147 countries and 10 territories. If the military is solely for the purpose of defending us then why are we in so many countries? I never said that I don’t want any military. In the modern world it makes it difficult. But we really don’t need one in the sense that God can protect us if we had the faith as seen in the message by Kimball. So in practicality it’s good to have a military but only if we remember who is truly protecting us. And the military we have now is magnitudes too big.

  27. SUNNofaB.C.Rich on November 16, 2010 at 11:02 pm

    youre definitely stretching the definition of “occupy”. Let me guess, Shannon, Ireland is on your list (yeah, I occupied the Shannon, Ireland airport for 2 hours once on a layover) Check into that, sport. Don’t just take the word of some crack smoking, conspiracy freak operating a website out of his Grandmas basement.

    Anyways, looks like you DO realize the need for a standing military. However earlier you said “I will only honor those who protect my freedoms. Those in the military today do not protect my freedoms” They don’t huh? The same principle that has you admitting the practicality of having a standing military (despite your insistence that God can do all that stuff) is somehow absent because of a couple of wars you know little about and don’t agree with? That’s pretty arrogant dude. Why don’t you tell your local fire department you don’t appreciate what they do because you haven’t had a fire at your place yet. They’ll probably still come and put the fire out and they’ll be right to think youre an ignorant foolish jerk.

  28. Jon on November 17, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    The occupation list includes all troops stationed in a foreign country, not those that stop on a layover.

    I realize that we need a defense (as the Book of Mormon mentions) but I reject that we need an offense (what are current military does now). We are currently bombing more than just Iraq and Afghanistan. Start reading antiwar.com and you will read about the other countries we are fighting. We also have many economic sanctions against countries. Economic sanctions is a form of war. So I’m not talking just about the two wars that are in mainstream literature.

    Read the article by Kimball. Read this article by Hugh B Brown on preemptive war and the Book of Mormon:
    http://principlesofliberty.blogspot.com/2008/07/christianity-and-preemptive-war.html

    If the government can’t prove it’s case that we need to go to war with another country than we have no right to go to war with them (and we can only go to war after we have been attacked first). It’s not arrogant. It’s what the scriptures and modern day prophets tell us.

    The fire fighting example is a poor analogy. Although both the military and publicly funded fire fighters use coercive force to get funded the military is causing the fires, most fire fighters don’t create the fires (although it has happened it is very rare to my knowledge). The military creates the fires by occupying foreign countries and killing innocent people. It’s called blow back. There’s a whole book written about it and even the CIA admits it exists.

    Sir, I urge you to accept the words of Jesus into your life and denounce war and sue for peace.

    This conversation has obviously devolved since you are using name calling a form of argument when I have only asked for principles to combat that which I believe. If you wish for me to correspond with you anymore you will have to read more and come back with a principled argument of why you believe I am wrong.

  29. Adam Greenwood on November 17, 2010 at 1:17 pm

    Jon,
    I admire your determination not to name call and also to tell people who don’t accept your views on foreign policy that they aren’t followers of Jesus. Some might feel that in a Mormon context telling people they are opposed to Jesus is a little inflammatory, but those people are probably warmongers anyway.

  30. SUNNofaB.C.Rich on November 17, 2010 at 8:57 pm

    only warmongers observe Veteran’s Day huh Adam.

    Jon, how about a link to your “occupation list”. The firefighter analogy was fine, since you already conceded the need for a military for defense and that it would be a bad idea to not have a standing military. Maybe you should figure out if you really want a no offense/no defense type situation. You sort of hinted that your thinking isn’t really that simple. Maybe your first comment was driven more by emotion than logic.

    ..also it’s arrogant to assume that an E-5 in the military is politically and ideologically aligned perfectly with whatever administration is in power. Veteran’s Day isn’t about the people that start wars. Unless your views are really as simplistic as I mentioned, trash talking veterans on Veteran’s Day is a misdirected, sleazy, cheap shot. (nice try on the whole churching it up with the come to Jesus stuff, I wouldn’t slap that on all your personal opinions if I were you… but hey free country, thank a vet)

  31. Jon on November 18, 2010 at 11:56 am

    The occupation list is a side issue that’s not even really that important. You should really read the words of Kimball, Nibley, and Christ. Then you can understand the principles of the matter and not all the periphery junk. Although that junk can help a person feel validated in their hate of war and its consequences.

    But if you must here is the source. It comes from a quarterly publication titled “Active Duty Military Personnel Strengths by Regional Area and by Country”. Published by a Department of Defense organization called the Directorate for Information Operations and Reports (DIOR).

  32. SUNNofaB.C.Rich on November 19, 2010 at 1:51 am

    listen, champ periphery is always valid. (or putting it in the right context is…especially when it’s a source of validation) Life’s complicated right?
    Anyways I found it interesting that according to the Department of Defense ACTIVE DUTY MILITARY PERSONNEL STRENGTHS BY REGIONAL AREA AND BY COUNTRY it only takes 2 army guys and 1 marine to “occupy” Mongolia. 1 army guy and 2 air force guys to “occupy” Laos. only 1 army guy to “occupy” Guatemala! Must be Chuck Norris clones or something huh… there’s probably been more Moroccan military personnel in Utah alone than U.S. military personnel in those 3 countries combined over the last 4 years!

    By the way, i’m pretty sure Jesus and these Kimball and Nibley dudes don’t have a good reason why we shouldn’t have fought the Nazis. (God wasn’t stopping that from happening..) War’s hell I know that for a fact. Hasn’t been hell for you though. Why? Because of the U.S. military. That’s not to say that in order for you to not experience the hell of war, the U.S. military must always be pro-actively experiencing it, the guys doing the fighting don’t pick their own fights (take your problem up with the guys that start the fights, not the guys you want to defend you) but if and when the bad stuff is coming your way it’s gotta go through them before it gets to you and that’s well worth showing some respect to 2 days out of the year.

  33. SUNNofaB.C.Rich on November 21, 2010 at 9:20 pm

    Kent, overall a pretty good post… tactful, respectful and reasonable… I think you made a good point. Veteran’s day is always going to get the pissed off Vets, (that’s me) conspiracy freaks and dirty commies riled up. I guess the real shame is that the rest of society doesn’t really care either way.

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