Today is Veteran’s Day, November 11th.
Today we commemorate the anniversary of the end of World War I, The Great War, the war to end all wars, we were told, though regrettably it was not.
I am a veteran, as is my father and some few of my friends (a 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, and in the trenches at the fronts.
The end of the conflict was choreographed, like a dance.
It stopped suddenly, it stopped all at once.
It came to a halt 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, all the millions of people in their graves could get up from what they were doing and go home.
That is not what happened.
That never happens.
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, end it for all time, but that would not be the case.
The gods of war are busy, always
The conflicts they sew never end, not ever
We hunger and we thirst for war
It is the constant failure of humanity
Today is the feast of Saint Martin of Tours, the patron saint of soldiers; St. Martin of the Sword.
Saint Martin was the first Christian Soldier.
It was in recognition of him, and his feast that this date was selected to bring World War I to a close.
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 the curtain down.
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 the modern calendar, he was the man who penned Saint Martin’s hagiography. Most of Gregory’s hagiographical writings were works of fiction, either cut from whole cloth, or steeped and dyed from a the barest scintilla of truth. It is not likely that Martin of Tours ever lived, much less true are the reports of the many miracles he performed.
All the great Popes were great prevaricators, and great recipients of the penchant for falsehood.
Even if the life of Saint Martin was based on the life of a real person, his hagiography is a fiction and our celebration of him is a piece of propaganda, it is just another terrible lie, a fable penned with a terrible purpose; through it Pope Saint Gregory gave permission for Christians to takes up arms.
He gave Christian soldiers leave to march to war, a vocation which had been theretofore forbidden to the followers of Jesus, and a matter of deep contention in the Church.
The spirits of conflict have a will of their own…their will is bound like the double helix within our human nature.
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, changed the nature of the November 11th holiday; changing the name from Armistice Day 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 on Veteran’s Day.
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 promoted the idea that it was not only possible to serve Jesus with a sword, but laudable, 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: from tolerance and mercy, compassion and humility…and justice, true justice.
What we celebrate today is the character of those men and women 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, all of our calamitous attributes.
The spirits of conflict have a will of their own…the children of Aries; Fear, Panic and Strife, they own a piece of us, they reside in each of us.
We are possessed.
One hundred years after the end of World War I, we are still waging war all around the world. We the United States of America are waging war in Afghanistan, in Africa, selling weapons to Saudi Arabia, who is fighting a war by proxy with Iran in Yemen, and we are feeding other conflicts in every sector of the globe.
We are the greatest arms dealers in the world and every bullet we sell is a shiny little example of our failure.
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 the theatre of combat 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 once during that time, in Southeast Asia where my father served multiple tours of duty, a war in which we killed over 3,000,000 people of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.
We have killed millions more in many other nations in the decades since then, leaving millions of families broken.
We are terrible, profligate killers, we are experts at it, we Americans.
Today The President of the United States participated in a ceremony that honors the lives of fallen soldiers, a man who never served, who lied to avoid the draft, a man without a shred of honor.
Earlier this year he ordered soldiers to disperse crowds of protesters peacefully assembled in front of the White House, they used chemical irritants and horses to move the crowd, all so he could have a political photo-op in front of Church across the street.
He assembled his generals to participate in it as a show of force.
He ordered the Defense Department to draw up plans to use the United States Military against the American People under the authority of the insurrection act because he feared widespread protest of his failure to govern.
His top generals and defense secretary made public statement that they would not allow the United States armed forces to be drawn into the president’s political conflicts. After loosing his bid for re-election he fired the Secretary of Defense and put a political crony in his place.
It remains true that every bullet we fire, every missile we launch, each of them is an admission of our failure as diplomats and as human beings.
Violence does not beget peace. Violence it begets violence; it will always be that way. Only peace and reconciliation can bring about peace reconciliation.
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. This is the way out of conflict.
To be free from the repercussions of our history of violence requires that we forgive one another and seek forgiveness for ourselves.
If you want to honor our Veteran’s then commit yourself to meet conflict with love, respect all people, even your adversary, this is the thanks you can give to a Veteran today.