I am the son of a veteran. I am the nephew of a veteran. I am the friend of veterans. I am the friend and relative of future veterans.
Veterans Day–formerly Armistice Day, marking the end of the “Great War” (World War I)–is a day of both gratitude and moral urgency for me. I know enough in my own life to not stereotype the motivations and nature of participation of the men and women who serve in combat roles in the US military. My pacifist and anti-nationalist politics don’t preclude me for having a deep respect for people who bring politicians’ decisions into reality, however willingly or not they do so. Knowing both a little bit about the results of those actions, that respect comes with a certain sense of sadness, too. Even if one survives, there are few who participate in war who are spared by it.
And that frames the moral urgency of a day like this. Veterans Day is a day to focus some thought and attention on assuring the future demise of the holiday. We live in a world where the prospect of war seems immutable until we discover the depth of the prospect of peace. Then we should be compelled to act to end this human folly.
I long for a day when there are no more veterans to mark a day like this; when people never have to make the choice whether or not to “defend their country”; when families never have to suffer the pain of separation and loss; and when the involvement of the US in millions of human lives around the world is not dominated by its ability to bring death and suffering.
Barack Obama is about to make a decision on the war in Afghanistan. At this point, all that is unknown is how many more troops he will send. It is the wrong decision. You might feel like you don’t have the expertise to say that; like the military leadership who is asking for more troops represent the select few who can really judge. You would be wrong if you thought that. That you do is perhaps understandable, but it is also part of the problem. When we abdicate our responsibility to think and feel like humanists we contribute to the obliteration of any humanist possibility. The sad truth is that there are those who think that any military situation can be “won” militarily. History is proof that this is not the case. The future need not continue to confirm this further.