So many people forget, or only ironically recall, it was supposed to be the “War to End All Wars.” Yet here we are 90 years later, and around the world, wars are being prosecuted between nationstates and between nations and non-state actors. What is now called “Fourth Generational Warfare.”
Armistice Day or Veteran’s Day?
As Wikipedia cites, the original commemoration of the day of November 11 began in 1919, one year after the armistice on the Western Front of the Great War. In the United States, it was made an Act of Government on 13 May 1938, even as Europe slipped closer and closer to the Second World War, as “a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as ‘Armistice Day’.”
In the United States, the move to rename Armistice Day as “Veteran’s Day” occurred between 1953—1954 during the height of the Cold War, and in the shadow of the Korean Conflict. The renaming of the holiday, ideally to encompass World War II and the Korean conflict, fundamentally shifted the appreciation of the day.
For Armistice can be enjoyed by civilian, soldier and veteran alike. When we alter it to “Veteran’s Day,” we forget the original intent — the commemoration of peace following war — and we likewise minimize the appreciation of civilian contribution and sacrifice of those who survived such terrible armed conflict. For those who would put less thought into the holiday, it relegates it to a day to appreciate soldiery.
For those who do not condone military service or military action, it becomes a day for protest and dispute. For those who served with honor, it becomes a more lonely vigil. For those who were civilians or children survivors, it can be an day wherein their contribution and experience is under-appreciated or utterly forgotten.
Soldiers at least are issued weapons to defend themselves. How can we measure who is braver? The soldier bearing his weapon in the heat of battle, or the unarmed mother huddling with her children in her arms? Or the traumatized and maimed children most of all? It is disrespectful to attempt to compare one or the other as more or less honorable.
We can simply honor them all when we regard armistice — the peace that follows conflict — as the commemoration of them all.
The Season of Change: 9/11 to 11/11
From the tragic commemoration of 9/11 to the respectful regard for armistice on 11/11, we can set aside thoughts for establishing a new global movement for peaceful redress of grievances and resolution of differences.
We cannot go back in history and undo heinous crimes and shocking losses of life. We can, however, focus on the century ahead and work towards avoiding the repetition of destructive wars. To find new ways to achieve our ends without falling back to violence and destruction.
Between 9/11 and 11/11 each year, can we close the gap between our ideals and reality? How can we change global dialogue and politics, to escape from war as the solutions to political and economic problems in the 21st Century?
The stakes are enormous. World War I had over 40 million casualties: 21 million wounded and 20 million dead. World War II had approximately 72 million deaths, and tens of millions more wounded.
In the 21st Century, we stand to lose tens or hundreds of millions more to warfare, both internal and international. Yet if a global war were to occur in the present environment of nuclear and conventional technology, clashes of cultures, pressured by politics, economic, health and security crises, and exacerbation of conflicts through xenophobia and zealotry, the globe could see a humanitarian and ecological catastrophe unprecedented in history.
Casualties could very likely soar to 100 million or more, and even exceed 1 billion persons given effects to global economies for food and water, fuel and power, manufactured goods and natural resources.
A Moment for Armistice, 90 Years Later
This 11/11 at 11:00 AM in your local time zone, take a moment to pray for Armistice. Truce. Peace in our time.
We’re 90 years into the advent of the age of Armistice, as called for by those who survived the First World War. The Great War. The War to End All Wars. For the sake of those who lived and died, and in honor of the hard-won lessons passed on to the world, let us pray for peace in our time, good will towards all humankind, and stability for the environment which sustains us all.
Prayer Cycle for Peace in our Time
Each morning at 11:11 AM, recall those who have made peace in the past, and pray for the peace of the soul for those who have been troubled and harmed by armed conflict and violence. This is the moment of Armistice that marked the end of the First World War, on November 11, 1918. 11/11 @ 11:00 AM. Commemorate 11:11 AM each day with prayer. Let it be a thankful recognition of the enjoyment and establishment of peace in our past. Honor the past, with sober mindfulness of the sacrifices of those millions who sought to establish and maintain peace in our present time.
Each evening at 11:11 PM, recall those who are doing the work of peacemaking for the planet. The brokers, arbiters and advocates for peace. The workers for social justice, healthcare, and humanitarian rights. The survivors and the casualties, and those who bear arms for defense of the innocent. Pray that they all find peace in the future. Pray too for the politicians and community leaders who seek peace and reconciliation, that they may be able to withstand those who first seek to wage cruel war. Pray for those who presently wage cruel war to find enlightenment to achieve their aims and to declare armistice with their enemies without causing further human suffering and misery. Saint Augustine said war was waged to achieve a better peace. Let us pray for the best peace possible starting now, to allow it to blossom and bear greater fruition over time in future days ahead.
How Will You Commemorate Armistice Day?
Tell us your plans and thoughts.
- What do you wish to do for this 90th Anniversary of Armistice Day?
- What do you hope to achieve in the world over the next 10 years as we approach the Centennial Anniversary of the Great War?
- Can we achieve “Peace in Our Time,” a century after we had first promised it?
Global Understanding Institute
October 8, 2008