Monday, November 11, 2013

Eleven, Eleven, Eleven: a meditation

November 11th has become less a day of observance and more sort of loaf-around, generic holiday kind of day. Is it blasphemous for me to say such a thing?

How many people realize, or remember, that what we call Veteran’s Day was a day that was intended to mark the cessation of war in the world?  Armistice Day was what they called it, back then. It is known elsewhere as Remembrance Day, a day for red poppies and solemn music, for prayer.

The day commemorates the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, commemorates the end of “The War To End All Wars.”

The irony, of course, is that this treaty did not end all wars. It did not even completely end the hostilities of World War I. The armistice served to drive further political wedges that led the way to more militarism, more bloodshed and ethnic cleansing—all of this leading directly to primary causes of World War II. The reasons for this are many, not the least of which was the redrawing of borders over traditional ethnic boundaries to placate certain authoritarian leaders who were looking to an expansionist land-grab to shore up their fascist, totalitarian dominions.

What happened in Europe is nothing less that what happened to the ancient Jewish tribes in biblical times; the cultural centers of many small states were destroyed or heavily damaged, and the people were resettled to other places, so that the conquerors could have their traditional homelands to use. The economy of Europe was made unstable for generations.

But, let us set aside this observation and engage an aspect that is elusive and theoretical.

Armistice is only a temporary function; it is an agreement to ceasefire while negotiations are made for a peace that will hopefully be lasting. The unfortunate truth is that war has become an economic tool too useful to turn aside for anything so difficult as cultivating a peaceful world.

Indeed peace, as a theoretical, like infinity, it is too difficult to contemplate. Essentially, it means that people have to strive for the best of everything in a way that is cooperative rather than competitive. The human psyche is only prepared for domination, for dominating or being dominated. Our brains are preprogrammed for quick reactions, but only from the lowest part of the brain. Lashing out is the first response; it is so much easier than having a reasoned conversation.

So, this is possibly why we, in the United States, could no longer call this remembrance Armistice Day. The name had to be changed, in recognition that a lasting peace was no longer the objective. We had to pay homage to the instrument of the hegemon, by honoring the sacrifice of its pawns.

Blasphemy! (I can hear the grumbles.)

The ancients recognized the problem. If there was to be just governance, the arbiter could not very well be human, given how we are each and all preprogrammed to react from our lowest, when challenged. This is how it was expressed, by an old geezer named Isaiah:

Why should you be beaten anymore? Why do you persist in rebellion? Your whole head is injured, your whole heart afflicted. From the sole of your foot to the top of your head there is no soundness—
only wounds and welts and open sores, not cleansed or bandaged or soothed with olive oil…

Your country is desolate, your cities burned with fire; your fields are being stripped by foreigners right before you, laid waste as when overthrown by strangers. Daughter Zion is left like a shelter in a vineyard, like a hut in a cucumber field, like a city under siege…

If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good things of the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword…

See how the faithful city has become a prostitute! She once was full of justice; righteousness used to dwell in her—but now murderers! Your silver has become dross, your choice wine is diluted with water.

Your rulers are rebels, with thieves; they all love bribes and chase after gifts. They do not defend the cause of the fatherless; the widow’s case does not come before them.

Times have not changed, in several thousand years, nor has the inherent nature of people.

We do no honor, to war dead or war living, to perpetuate armed conflict! I do not agree that we need to honor bloodshed. I will never agree to that!

The spoils of war are destroying the hope that life can continue on this planet. We teach our children war games, but not how to resolve conflict from our highest selves. We teach that killing is honorable, and what is worse, we make guns available to everyone so that they can use them for that purpose—as if it is a sacred right! Children die in our streets at home and in foreign streets where our soldiers patrol. Ignorance and thoughtless waste abound in a world that is, by nature, beautiful, if only we wouldn’t pollute and profane it.

We should not honor bloodshed. I do not agree to that.

I believe we can only honor our Veterans by working toward a world without weapons, a world without war, a world without dominating bullies.

Verily, I say unto you, we have more important things to do than appease (and act as pawns for) bullies! Life, as we know it, is at stake.

The only true Armistice Day is the one where we all win, and we all become veterans to a past that is over and done.

The old geezer envisioned it this way:

They shall beat their swords into plowshares,
And their spears into pruning hooks;
Nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
Neither shall they learn war anymore.

Honor our veterans for their service, but not their servitude to a culture of corruption and death. 

Strive for good, heal the sick, uphold the widow and the orphan, clean up the polluted planet, teach new ways to deal with conflict.

Let us not wait for the Eleventh Hour that signals our destruction; let us begin, this very moment, to build anew.