Last week, while our non-vet Commander-in-Chief Obama continued to weigh his options vs. the Middle East War, Veterans Day (officially non-apostropheed, as if nobody wants ownership) was celebrated all over our lucratively-militarized state of North Carolina. It rained all over, too. Parades were canceled or marched indoors ... and I'm glad, rhetorically. In order to make a historical point. (There is a sufficiency of war-vets in my family to memorialize, thank you.)
Originally, November 11 was Armistice Day, federally ordained one year after the fact to commemorate the signing of the (lit.) "arms-stand" agreement ending WWI hostilities at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. It's still celebrated as such by our then-allied countries in that "war to end all wars." It didn't. And I'm unaware of any cease-fire pacts being signed lately. No, let Veterans Day stand rather for this country's perennial war-mongering, it's inexhaustible capacity find itself at-war with someone--somewhere and everywhere--serially and seemingly all of the time. In this soon-to-be former decade wherein my young grandchildren took their first steps, they have not known a moment of at-peace.
It wasn't always thus.
I think that in 1919 the world was genuinely optimistic--having seen the apocalyptic havoc that modern warfare can wreak--that we really weren't going to go through that again. After all, President Wilson and the American "dough-boys" had won the "Great War" in Europe in record time once we got into it, and the planet once again seemed "safe for democracy" ... except in the U.S. Senate. Wilson's idea of the League of Nations was well on its way to becoming reality across the old and newly-coined democracies of Europe (and remained so sans U.S. till after the next war), and everybody signed-off our President's famous "Fourteen Points" for achieving a lasting peace ... except the U.S. Senate. That's right, the world's greatest deliberative body misread the League of Nations treaty as Health-Care Reform, defeated it, and paved the way for WWII.
Okay, I suppose the German people must again share the blame for the latter. Really all of it. What's the old saw?--"Get one German together, he broods; get two together, they argue; get three together, they march." Or something like that. And so the first half of the last century was an era of uncalled-for defensive war, on our part. We resisted entry into both world-wars till the Germans sunk our ships in the first one, and the Japanese did it again in the second one. Ah, the good old days. Nobody really wanted to fight the second one, the caught-by-surprise devastation of the first still holding most nations in shock ... except for Germany. Appeasement was the order of the day, until it was too late. Perhaps this was the sinister and ultimately self-defeating lesson learned and carried over to second half of our last century and dribbling over into this one, that has made us--sometimes in collusion with the latter-day League of Nations: the U.N.--so damnably interventionist. Kennedy's "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech sums up our long-distance blood-lust over the last 60 years. Ancient-Germanically though my blood may course, the Blogman has no wish to be a citizen of Berlin. I really do wish JFK had meant, "I'm a jelly-doughnut"--for so the urban legend goes that he misaligned his word with a (for-real) popular confection--but, in context, he didn't.
At 11:01 pm, Nov. !!th 1918, my maternal Granddaddy Cliff, by-then-veteran dough-boy, might have celebrated the Armistice with a jelly doughnut, but not with a Berliner. The young Georgian, Clifford Alonzo Edmunds, Corporal, American Expeditionary Forces, and his squad had already killed enough of them. That fellow on the right above looks a bit as he did, compared with our old photograph, taken at the same time and place. (more)