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Sunday, November 11, 2018

Veteran's Day


Today is Veteran’s Day, November 11th.

Today we commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, the war to end all wars, though regrettably it was not.

I am a veteran, as is my father and some few of my friends (very few).

From the end of World War I, until 1954, we celebrated this day as Armistice Day, as a remembrance of that moment in that first great-global conflict, when the fighting stopped along the lines, in the trenches at the fronts. It stopped suddenly, it stopped all at once, at the eleventh hour, on the eleventh day, of the eleventh month; as if the war had a director who yelled “cut!” And all the actors on the stage, all the pawns in the field, the millions of people in their graves could get up from what they were doing and go home.

That is not what happened.

Nearly twenty million people were killed in World War I, twenty million families broken, with many millions more suffering in the aftermath.

World War I was perceived by those who endured it as so horrible that it would end war itself for all time, but that would not be the case.

The gods of war are busy, always
The conflicts they sew never end, ever
We hunger and thirst for it, the failure
Of humanity

Today is the feast of Saint Martin of Tours. He is the patron saint of soldiers, St. Martin of the Sword, he is called.

He was the first Christian Soldier.

It was in recognition of him, and his feast that this date was selected, to bring a halt to World War I.

It might have come sooner for the soldiers in the struggle, but the politicians acting like art directors wanted to wait for a symbolic moment, to bring it to a close.

11:11:11

The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, it was easy to remember.   

Pope, Saint Gregory the Great, the man who gave us our calendar, penned Saint Martin’s hagiography. It is not likely that Martin ever even lived. All of Gregory’s writing were works of fiction, either cut from whole cloth, or steeped and dyed.

Even if the life of Martin was based on the life of a real person did, his hagiography is a fiction, our celebration of Saint Martin is a piece of propaganda, it is just another terrible lie.

His hagiography was a fable penned with a purpose, through it Pope, Saint Gregory gave permission for Christians to takes up arms.

He gave Christian soldiers leave to march to war, which had been theretofore a matter of deep contention, a thing that was forbidden to the followers of Jesus.

The spirits of conflict have a will of their own…their will is our own. There is no god of war, there are only human pretenders.

In 1954, President Eisenhower, the man who had been the Supreme Allied Commander in World War II, he changed the nature of the November 11th holiday; from Armistice to Veteran’s Day, in honor of all Veterans who had fought in any conflict, anywhere in the world.

Friend or foe, ally or adversary, we celebrate the courage of the average person, woman or man, who was willing to risk everything for their tribe, their nation or their clan.

That is what we celebrate today.

We do not celebrate the end of war, because it seems that war itself will never end.

We do not celebrate the fictional life of a fictional saint, whose usefulness as a tool of propaganda suggested that it was possible to serve Jesus, with a sword, and we do not celebrate the lie that peace could ever be the fruit of war.

The fruit of peace springs from a different seed altogether.

We celebrate the character of those who have had the courage to enlist, to risk their lives for the sake of their sisters and brothers, whether at home or beside them in the field.

We should always celebrate that quality of character, while simultaneously naming the flaws in our own that lead us to war; fear and greed, anger and hatred, calamities all.

The spirits of conflict have a will of their own…they are the children of Aries; Fear, Panic and Strife, they own a piece of us.

We are possessed.

We are still waging war all around the world, one hundred years after the end of World War I. We the United States of America are waging war in Afghanistan, in Africa, selling weapons to Saudi Arabia, fighting a war by proxy with Iran in Yemen, and feeding other conflicts in every sector of the globe.

I served in the Navy as a Hospital Corpsman, from 1990 – 1994.

I served during the first Gulf War, though I did not serve in that theatre where we killed 300,000 Iraqi people in the space of a few months.

My father served for twenty-two years; the first four as a Marine, the next eighteen in the Air Force. Our nation went to war only once during that time, in Southeast Asia, where my father served multiple tours of duty, and in which we killed 3,000,000 people of Vietnam.

We have killed millions more in many other nations in the decades since then.

Millions of families broken.

We are terrible, we are profligate killers, we are experts at it, we Americans.

Today our President went to a ceremony to mark the one hundred year anniversary of World War I. All of the leaders gathered there walked arm in arm down the Champs Elysees, all except two, Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, who arrived at the celebration late, in disgrace.

Make of that what you will.

Every bullet we fire, every missile we launch, each of them is an admission of our failure as diplomats, as human beings.

Violence does not beget peace. Violence it begets violence, and so it will always be.
Only peace and reconciliation bring peace.

Love one another; pay respect to the inherent dignity of every human being, regardless of your disagreements, regardless of the pain you are carrying from your past.

To be free from it, requires that we forgive.

Commit yourself to meet conflict with love, respect all people, even your adversary, this is the thanks you can give to a Veteran today.