“Seventh-century chroniclers and hagiographers had no love of the abstract; for them the purpose of political power was contained in one concrete and comprehensible word: peace. Peace could be broken in two ways: from without…or from within.”
Paul Fouracre and Richard A. Gerberding,
Late Merovingian France, History and Hagiography 640 – 720
As much as we would like to think we’ve progressed since the seventh century, much about political power remains the same. Peace comes at a price and we should honor those who shoulder that price for us. On today, Veterans Day, I would like to thank all of those who maintain our peace through force of arms from dangers both domestic and abroad.
Given the nature of modern warfare and the consequences of recent attacks such as the bombing of the Boston Marathon I’d also like to acknowledge our first responders: the fire fighters, police and medical teams for the enhanced role they now play in keeping the peace. Together with our veterans, they keep us safe and at liberty to pursue life and happiness every day of our lives.
Prior to World War II, we celebrated a different holiday on November 11th. It was called “Armistice Day” and it grew out of the decision to cease of hostilities at the end of World War I (then known as the Great War).
In the fall of 1918, with its army reeling and its navy in mutiny, the Germans sued for peace based on a framework outlined in a speech given by U.S. President Woodrow Wilson called the “Fourteen Points.” On November 10, 1918 the allied forces entered into an armistice with Germany in Compiègne, France that would provide a cessation of the war, until a new treaty could be ratified. They signified that the shelling would stop on the 11th hour of the next day.
From that day forward, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, countries around the world would honor the 20 million who lost their lives during the war with a minute of silence. A second minute of silence honored those who had survived them, their spouses, their children and their comrades.
The holiday changed after World War II when it became clear that “the War to End all Wars” would not live up to its nickname. Since we honor those who died in combat on Memorial Day, Veterans Day was dedicated to the living.
While I support the change and honor those who have fought for our country, a part of me still appreciates the idea of a holiday honoring the moment the bombs stopped.