You all know that I am a pretty traditional guy, one of the effects of that is that I believe holidays belong on their anniversary’s, not necessarily to provide a three-day weekend. Remembrance Day is a case in point.
It is on St. Martin’s day, the patron saint of the infantry, that the bloodletting of the Great War ended, specifically the 11th hour of the 11th day, of the 11th month, and so for many of you, it is Remembrance Day, for those of us who are Americans it is Veterans Day, only because we already had a holiday, Memorial Day, celebrating our war dead, Veterans Day celebrates the survivors of all our conflicts. Yes, to a great extent, both do both, and that is hardly a bad thing, our, and your, soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines have done much to build the modern world we inhabit.
An aside to our American readers, yesterday marked, with Pomp and Circumstance (and dancing, and a fair amount of alcohol) an event that occurred 240 years ago in Dun’s tavern in Philadelphia: the birth of those guys that Kaiser Bill called Teufel Hunden, the US Marine Corps. Ever since it has lived up to its motto of Semper Fidelis.
Most of us here have written something about Remembrance Day: Chalcedon here, Jessica here, and I did here, I’m pretty sure Geoffrey has talked about it a bit as well, but I’m darned if I can find it. I think in many ways, we said most of what there is to say.
Chalcedon made the point, here, that as we get further away from the events, we tend to over sentimentalize them. He’s right, we do, and as he said, not many of the troops were consciously fighting for “Truth, beauty, and the American [or English] way. they were fighting because it was their job, for their buddies, and for their lives. And yes, I do mean that to include those who were our enemies, I don’t think the son of a German farmer was all that different from an English orphan or an American city boy. They had a job to do, and they did it the best they could. Anybody that thinks anybody was fighting for democracy in the Great War is simply a loon. Well, there may have been a few who were fooled by the propaganda, but armies have a great knack at curing people of such foolish beliefs.
1914 in many ways marked the start of the most violent century in, perhaps, forever. It is a major accomplishment that we won all the important ones. the world would be a far darker place if Hitler, Tojo, or Stalin had won. It is a signal accomplishment of the English Speaking Peoples that we gave the world a chance at freedom. We can’t win or keep it for them, but we gave them a chance. And think about that as you look at the Cenotaph, or Bobby Lee’s yard, which the US government pretty much stole to start Arlington Cemetary.
We owe much gratitude to our veteran’s and our war dead, we should get over our old habits, and truly care for those who have eaten the Queen’s biscuit, or have the Eagle on their button, and quit thinking that lip service on one (or two) days a year is all we owe them. You remember this, right? Don’t let it apply to our generation.
You talk o' better food for us, an' schools, an' fires, an' all: We'll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational. Don't mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face The Widow's Uniform is not the soldier-man's disgrace. For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Chuck him out, the brute!" But it's "Saviour of 'is country" when the guns begin to shoot; An' it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' anything you please; An' Tommy ain't a bloomin' fool -- you bet that Tommy sees!
Abraham Lincoln had something to say to us about this as well in his second inaugural
With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.