Happy Remembrance Day!
To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, God must love veterans; He makes so many of them.
We just finished "celebrating" Veteran’s Day earlier this month, complete with the usual parades and the show of flags, but it’s worth remembering that Nov. 11 wasn’t always a day for blindly glorifying the military.
When November 11 was initially established as a US holiday, it was done by an Act of Congress to commemorate the cease-fire established on the Western front between the forces of Germany and those of the French, British and Americans. The name of the holiday--Remembrance Day in the UK and Commonwealth countries, Armistice Day in the US--was only changed in America to Veterans Day after the Korean War, when the US was well on the way to being transformed into a permanent war machine.
The original day was established to condemn war and to recall the horrors of a senseless military conflict that caused the deaths of over 20,000,000 people. As the Act stated, "...it is fitting that the recurring anniversary of this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations."
These days, Veteran’s Day is not about pacifism or condemning war, it's about blind flag-waving patriotism and celebrating our “heroes” in uniform, and of course desperate sales by financially struggling retail establishments (originally it was a day to be marked by a "cessation of business," but since Pres. George Bush's call, after the 9-11 attacks, was for Americans to "go out and shop," it should be no surprise that that is the major American activity on Nov. 11).
It’s worth recalling, because nobody talks about these things, that over two million Americans have been sent to serve tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. That’s a pretty big number--maybe more than 1% of the adult US population.
Over 600,000 of those people have been treated at medical facilities of the Veterans Administration. Countless more are suffering, undiagnosed or untreated, from ailments and injuries like undiagnosed head trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression etc. More than half of the people who are homeless in the US are veterans, many of them veterans of the latest of America’s endless string of wars.
It is common to hear politicians and corporate media hacks talk about how America’s veterans and active-duty troops are “defending our freedoms.”
This is nothing but an indoctrinated response.
It does no disrespect to Americans in uniform to state the truth that America’s freedoms have never been threatened by Afghanistan’s Taliban, any more than they were threatened by tinpot dictator Saddam Hussein. And even the terrorists who have bombed American buildings or downed American planes never threatened our freedom for a second. Any damage to American freedom--and there has been plenty of damage done since Sept. 11, 2001--has been done by our own government, and by ourselves, not by outsiders.