The origins of Armistice Day, also known as Remembrance Day, were all about ending war, marking the signing of a ceasefire to begin to halt the destruction of World War I. That signing occurred on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, 1918. Since the vast majority of war dead in World War I were military, it was inaugurated as a commemoration of their service and sacrifice.
Since the majority of war dead nowadays are civilians, it seems logical to stop just honoring the military veterans, living or dead, on this day, and to repurpose the day as a true peace holiday devoted to doing everything we can to end war.
What? You can’t just reinvent a holiday!
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Yes, we can. Christmas is a massive commercial holiday, refashioned to benefit corporate owners, and they have made their moves on the rest of the holidays too, as we see in ads for sales at Valentines Day, Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Halloween and Thanksgiving – and they are working on Martin Luther King Day, I have no doubt.
Mother’s Day is one of the most reinvented holidays of all, since the original Mother’s Day proclamation by Julia Ward Howe was in response to both the US Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. Her proclamation was that mothers of the world must stop allowing governments to steal and sacrifice their sons to war. It was an antiwar day. Now it’s nice enough, but with all social force drained from it.
And Armistice Day itself was repurposed from a day honoring peace to Veterans Day. It was Armistice Day up until the McCarthy era when, in 1954, militarists from Alabama and Kansas succeeded in pressuring Congress to repurpose Armistice Day into a celebration of war by further sacralizing all members of all armed forces, living or dead.
Time for another holiday reinvention, from a war-loving day to a peace-loving day. In war nowadays, unlike World War I, it is safer to be in uniform with a gun than to be an innocent civilian. Where is the honor in that? Yes, I honor some of them – I had the honor to get to know one Marine corpsman who deserves every salute and benefit possible. But the more we have celebrations that support more war the more our culture coarsens into a permanent war of Orwellian proportions. Let’s turn this around.