Today is the 100th year anniversary of the end of World War I. A day to remember the fallen and the horrors of war, and the necessity of striving for peace.
When I was growing up, we knew WWI veterans, but now they are all gone. My father was a WWII veteran, but he and his generation are mostly gone now. In spite of today’s ceremonies, I fear that memory is fading. That the hard-learned lessons – which include the dangers of nationalism – don’t carry the weight that they once did.
We should remember ALL of the verses of In Flanders Fields (John McCrae), and see clearly who the ‘foe’ is – that it is hate and intolerance.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
Lest We Forget is always under threat when revisionist history compromises truth. This is what defines people and what it means to have integrity. The ability to put your own self interest aside and fight for the greater good. When we acknowledge a greater enemy it puts the notion of Us and Them in proper perspective.
I’ve always remembered this particular passage from Kurt Vonnegut’s book, Breakfast of Champions. It has stuck with me over the years.
I was able to track it down online:
So this book is a sidewalk strewn with junk, trash which I throw over my shoulders as I travel in time back to November eleventh, nineteen hundred and twenty-two.
I will come to a time in my backwards trip when November eleventh, accidentally my birthday, was a sacred day called Armistice Day. When I was a boy, and when Dwayne Hoover was a boy, all the people of all the nations which had fought in the First World War were silent during the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of Armistice Day, which was the eleventh day of the eleventh month.
It was during that minute in nineteen hundred and eighteen, that millions upon millions of human beings stopped butchering one another. I have talked to old men who were on battlefields during that minute. They have told me in one way or another that the sudden silence was the Voice of God. So we still have among us some men who can remember when God spoke clearly to mankind.
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.
What else is sacred? Oh, Romeo and Juliet, for instance.
And all music is.
Yes, all music is sacred.
So is silence.
Vonnegut also said that women were sacred. I most definitely agree.