Sunday, November 9, 2014

November 11th - A Day to Celebrate Peace or War?

Armistice Day - When I was in school we celebrated Armistice Day. We celebrated on November 11th for a reason. It was on this day in 1918 that the "war to end all wars ended." "On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the Allies and Axis powers both laid down their arms and the fighting ceased. The world had never known such bloodletting and killing that had continued for 4 years draining all the resources of the major European powers as well as killing an entire generation of young men. The massive famine that followed killed even more millions of civilians.The gratitude the world felt when World War I ended was expressed in setting aside November 11th as a day to honor peace and celebrate the fact that the world was now ready to lay aside war as a method of solving international disputes.  Everyone wanted peace.

This attitude was so strong that in 1928 the major world powers signed a treaty that would ban the use of war as a method of solving conflict. That treaty was known as The Kellog-Briand Pact. In essence that treaty signed in Paris on August 27, 1928 and ratified by the United States Senate and signed by the President in January of 1929 renounced war as an instrument of national policy. Other countries signing the pact were: Australia, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Germany, Great Britain, India, Irish Free State, Italy, New Zealand, Union of South Africa, Poland, Belgium, France and Japan. That Treaty has never been revoked, but it certainly has been disregarded by the United States just as the Constitutional requirement that only Congress has the power to declare war.

Not only was the Pact ignored, but the victorious allies continued with their arms buildup while denying that Germany had the right to any weapons. We know how that ended. Since World War II and the introduction of the ultimate weapon of mass destruction, the major powers of the world have continued - with the United States in the lead - in an never ending arms race holding the people of the globe captive with their stockpiles of weapons and increasing military budgets while all the while proclaiming each side wants peace. Peace is not achieved with the the power of a gun. That is only subjugation of people under the idea that "might makes right." That is still the attitude about the way to peace in the 21st Century.

Today, we have generations of young adults who only remember November 11th as a celebration of victory in war. We wave the flag and bow and honor those "heroes" who have made our world peaceful. I am not here to judge the veterans who go off to fight in the wars and come home physical and emotionally damaged. What I am judging is the attitude that sends off its young people to kill and maim or to kill and maim others until one side can claim "victory" and then the war ends and the "heroes" return home until called again to "serve." Those young men who fought in World War I and the people who lived through that horror finally understood "at the 11th hour on the 11th day of  the 11th month" that guns do not make peace. The world readily accepted the proclamation of a day set aside on November 11 to honor the laying down of weapons and fully supported the Kellog-Briand Pact. How did we lose sight of this very important principle and when will it return? I have compassion for our veterans and the losses they suffered trying to support their individual countries, but I think we can do more good for our veterans and our country alike if we start to think more about how to prevent war in the first place and rename November 11th for what it meant originally - a day to honor peace.

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