Tomorrow is Veteran’s Day, or Remembrance Day as it is known in the U.K. I am always struck by how sacrosanct this day is in England. Originally, this day was set aside to commemorate the armistice that ended WWI, which was up until then, the most horrific war that the western world had ever seen. It was called, “the war to end all wars” such was its violence and carnage. Apparently in the years that followed 1918, millions of Americans who had supported World War I came to reject the idea that anything could ever be gained through warfare.
WWI was fueled by propaganda and patriotism and as we all know, it wasn’t the end of warfare in this modern world. The United States continues to send young men and women into battle all in the name of freedom and for the love of God and country when in fact it is almost never about these things.
I don’t know how to observe Remembrance Day except with this poem from Wilfred Owen:
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.*
*roughly translated “it is sweet to die for one’s country”.