By Joshua Shurley
Veterans Day, Nov. 11, is just around the corner. This year, the holiday is officially observed the following Monday, Nov. 12. One of the largest Veterans Day parades in the country will be held right here in Fresno, with thousands expected to attend. People will gather around the sacred red, white and blue and revel in the glory of patriotic fervor to honor the sacrifices of the troops, as most believe.
But what are we celebrating, promoting and glorifying when Americans gather for this annual patriotic ritual? The history of Veterans Day goes back exactly 100 years this month, when it was known as Armistice Day. Nov. 11 was the day the armistice was signed that ended the First World War—“the war to end all wars” as it was sometimes called.
Veterans for Peace, Peace Fresno, the Fresno Center for Nonviolence and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom are hosting a free related event at the Community United Church of Christ on Nov. 12 at 5:30 p.m. Longtime radio personality and broadcast journalist Mitch Jeserich, host of KPFA’s Letters and Politics, will deliver a talk titled “Armistice and Its Aftermath.” This timely event finds us at a crossroads in history—caught between a tumultuous past century and an uncertain future.
The organizers of this event ask that we do the following:
- Remember that exactly 100 years ago, as the First World War ended, nations were mourning their dead and collectively calling for an end to all wars. Armistice Day was designated as “a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated.” And the world celebrated peace as a universal principle.
- Reflect on the rebranding of Nov. 11 as Veterans Day post–World War II, after which honoring the warrior quickly evolved to the glorification of war and displays of militarism—the opposite of what the day once stood for. How does this rebranding actually help our veterans? Or heal the wounds of war? How can blind militarism serve the cause of enduring peace?
- Reclaim what we once called Armistice Day. As all of humanity faces a critical moment, and the U.S. military is engaged in so many countries around the world with no end in sight, we also see troubling crackdowns on dissent here in our own country. We must press our government to end reckless military interventions that endanger the entire world. We must build a culture of peace and justice, at home and abroad. One way to do this is to take back the narrative surrounding Nov. 11 and build a culture of peace.
The late writer and combat veteran Kurt Vonnegut wrote that, “Armistice Day has become Veterans’ Day. Armistice Day was sacred. Veterans’ Day is not. So I will throw Veterans’ Day over my shoulder. Armistice Day I will keep. I don’t want to throw away any sacred things.”
If we truly care about peace and freedom, and our veterans, as well as the plight of humanity, then we ought to throw Veterans Day over our shoulder, and celebrate what is truly sacred—the original intent of Armistice Day, which is to say of war, “never again.” A day that celebrates peace, not war, is the best way to honor the sacrifices of veterans and all who have been affected by war.
For further information about this event, visit vfp180.org.
Dr. Joshua Shurley is a political science instructor at Clovis Community College, an organizer with Veterans for Peace Chapter 180 and a board member of the Fresno Center for Nonviolence. Contact Joshua at 559-512-9469 or firstname.lastname@example.org.