Friday, 11 November 2011

Eleventh hour, day, month

I knew that it was Veteran's Day (USA) today.  I set out my American Flag.  I paused for silence at 11:00 a.m.  I set out at other business, including a very good lunch with my friends Cindi and Wes.

At about 4:00 p.m. I began to fret because the mail had not arrived. By 4:30 p.m. I began to get annoyed about this.

Silly me. I had forgotten that Veteran's Day is a public holiday in these United States. Such is life in retirement -  public holidays lose their importance.

I believe that in the United Kingdom the public observances of the eleventh hour of the eleven day of the eleventh month  (11th November 1918) are now moved to the previous or next Sunday which is known as Remembrance Sunday.

In the U.S.A. the meaning of the day has shifted away from the cessation of hostilities in The Great War, to a generalised celebration of all military veterans, whether or not they served in combat.  And in current parlance they are all heroes. 

Indeed we have reduced the meaning of the word "heroic".  These days every sailor, soldier or airman/woman is deemed to be a hero.

But to have served in the military does not automatically make a person a hero.  There are heroes in the military, but there are also those whose service is/was lackadaisical, perfunctory, self-serving, and even cowardly.

And there are many expressions of  heroism outside of the military realm.  

I wish that we had a public holiday which upheld and celebrated the heroism of (e.g.) 

some school teachers; 

some nurses; 

some civil rights campaigners;

some "ordinary folk" who strive to make life better in developing countries or public housing facilities.

I prefer the older name for this day: "Armistice Day".  For what happened at 11:00 a.m. on the 11th November in 1918 was simply an armistice.  It was the end of a war. It was not the beginning of peace.

When we name the day as "Armistice Day" we are reminded

(1) Of the horrors of World War I (in which more soldiers were killed than all branches of the armed forces in World War II.)

(2) Of a generation of men in Germany, France, the United Kingdom and the U.S.A. who were blotted from the face of the earth.

(3) Of the millions of widows and orphans whose lives were blighted in the foolishness of the Great War.

(4) Of the futility of revenge -  for example the "Treaty of Versailles" which exacted an unbearable  burden on Germany - a burden which led to the emergence of a fierce and deadly nationalism -  known as "National Socialism" or "N-zism".

 But I bang my drum in favour of Armistice which may be the best humans can achieve in the absence of true peace.

And I think that the W.W.I. based song "The Green Fields of France" states my case with a greater eloquence than I can muster.


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