On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.
We’re so far removed from World War I now that we don’t have a visceral sense of the modernity of that war, of the shock and devastation left in the wake of Armistice Day.
Let me be very clear–war is a horrible thing and, as a student of history, it is rarely necessary. But war is a force that gives us meaning, as Chris Hedges suggests in his book of the same title. The great epic literature of our collective culture–from Gilgamesh through the Greek tragedians, from Shakespeare to Miller–have sought war as a cauldron from which emerges our truest nature as humans.
We all loved MASH, though we hated the Korean “conflict” that was its theme. Here in the South, we still know the names from the War of Northern Aggression–Bull Run, Gettysburg, Antietam–and Faulkner reminded us that, in the South, (and I suspect throughout the human condition) the past isn’t dead, it isn’t even past.
Part of our fascination, rightly so, is with our warriors–the citizens who are brave enough and dedicated enough to go to foreign places and face death. For us. For our country. For our dream of what America can be.
We didn’t treat them right after (and during) Viet Nam and we learned that bitter lesson. We are so careful now to parse our anti-war-talk–to remind ourselves and our fellow citizens that we may be against whatever conflict is looming in our cultural lives but we are proud of our soldiers. We love them, we are proud of them, we honor what they are doing for us.
So, here on Veterans Day, I want to acknowledge my love for the Veterans in my life–my dad and grandfathers, my Ancestor who was in the Confederate army, my old lost friends Arloa, Jackie Hilton. Hard as hell, the adventures of a lifetime, life-changing, horrific, enlightening, magical. War. Peace. Service. Sacrifice.
It is the stuff of legend, of religion. The foundation of our collective cultural life.
The best and only thing I can say is this: