When Armistice Day became Veterans Day in 1954, it wasn’t just that the day honored all veterans instead of just those who served in World War I. There was a distinct shift in tone, too. November 11th became less a sacred celebration of peace and more a celebration of the glories of war. According to The Week, “Veterans for Peace, an anti-war group, holds regular ‘Reclaim Armistice Day’ events on November 11 …”
According to The Economist‘s Erasmus (paywall), the Church of England, as the UK’s official organ of solemnity, has long been walking this fine line between remembering the dead and the honor due them, and also calling attention to the evils of war itself and the militaristic nationalism which drives it.
As the leaders of Germany, France, the UK, and the United States gathered in Paris this morning, I found myself thinking of all the parallels between the Belle Epoque that preceded the first world war and our own age. There is a great Anglophone empire which seems to be ceding international control to a rising power (once the UK and the US, now the US and China), a roiling Middle East connected like a cat’s cradle to delicate Great Power alliances, accelerating new media and industrial technologies wiping out old professions with incredible speed, all while multinational corporations make the claim that economic interdependence will make war a thing of the past. Not to mention an entrenched aristocracy on both sides of the Atlantic.
It is my great hope that this new century does not see another global conflict. May you enjoy this day in peace.