I feel a deep sense of responsibility in honoring the enormous sacrifices made by the sons and daughters of all nations in their military service to their homeland. Some make the ultimate sacrifice, but all make a sacrifice on some level. They deserve to be acknowledged for that and treated with due respect.
Individuals step into the role of 'warrior' for many different reasons and I will never pass judgment on them for that choice. However, I do feel immense sadness for those who have been ‘fooled’ into service by the seduction of blind patriotism or the enticement of a ‘better life’.
November 11, 1918 signified a cease fire in a horrendous war where almost 30 million were killed or injured and another 7 million were taken prisoner. The celebration of cease fire was originally named "Armistice Day" in the United States to commemorate the end of World War I and to provide "...exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding.....inviting the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and churches.....with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples."
Congress later deemed it necessary to pass a resolution and rename this day of dedication to the cause of world peace.
In 1954, that name was changed to Veterans Day and I believe lost its original intent and focus with that alteration.
As a devoted promoter of peace and nonviolence, I never served in my nation's military. I respect all veterans for their choice. I also choose to do all that I can to live peace, with the belief that one day we can actually recognize each other as members of the same human family, to be loved and respected for our differences and individuality.
One way I choose to do that is by being an associate member of my local chapter of Veterans For Peace. Their statement of purpose is clear and direct, “We intend to abolish war as an instrument of national policy.” I thank them as they courageously stand up to their opposition with relentless fervor. The horrors of war linger with painful memory and they stand down from aggression, violence and arrogance.
By allowing the original intention of this holiday to be changed from a focus on peace to only honoring veterans, we exclude the huge numbers of victims - the civilians, the innocents - who also paid an enormous price. We focus on the warrior and in doing so continue to glorify and uphold the aggressive and violent military action of nations worldwide.
In 1986 a group of scholars and scientists from around the world met and arrived at mutual understanding about violence. The Seville Statement on Violence challenged findings that have been used to justify violence and war:
IT IS SCIENTIFICALLY INCORRECT to say that we have inherited a tendency to make war from our animal ancestors.
IT IS SCIENTIFICALLY INCORRECT to say that war or any other violent behavior is genetically programmed into our human nature.
IT IS SCIENTIFICALLY INCORRECT to say that in the course of human evolution there has been a selection for aggressive behavior more than for other kinds of behavior.
IT IS SCIENTIFICALLY INCORRECT to say that humans have a ‘violent brain’.
IT IS SCIENTIFICALLY INCORRECT to say that war is caused by ‘instinct’ or any single motivation.
(read the entire statement here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seville_Statement_on_Violence) This statement was adopted by UNESCO at the 25th session of the General Conference 11/11/89.
We are taught divisiveness, separation, judgment, bias, prejudice, aggression, hatred and fear. Every global citizen, therefore, has the ability to choose peace, love, understanding, respect, tolerance and compassion.
As the ringing of bells announced the signing of that Armistice so many years ago, I add the sound of a crystal bell every November 11, at 11 minutes after 11 to remind myself of that original Armistice Day pledge of peace. I have grown fond of this ritual as I find bell ringing a more peaceful practice than gun salutes and fighter plane fly-overs.
As a citizen of this world, I take this day to acknowledge those who have sacrificed and remind myself and others of our continued role in making the necessary changes to enhance our experience together on this planet and make immediate strides forward, together, in creating a culture of peace that is ours, should we choose to claim it.
“Just as ‘wars begin in the minds of men’ peace also begins there. The same species who invented war is capable of inventing peace. The responsibility lies with each of us.” - Seville Statement on Violence, Spain, 1986
Happy Armistice Day.