Friday, November 11, 2005

A particularly stupid war

Today is Veteran's Day, and others have paid better tribute. I want to note, approvingly, the decision a half-century ago to change the day to Veteran's Day from Armistice Day.

Armistice Day has a somewhat romantic history: the guns fell silent at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. If you surf around, you'll see quotations from "Flander's Fields" and suchlike.

Yes, a cessation of war is something to celebrate; but I am glad we don't labor under the burden of the propaganda that once prevailed about the First World War. Not to put too fine a point on it: it was a remarkably stupid war. I can't go "rah rah" over it; not one bit.

The change to Veteran's Day seems fitting, and it makes the day far more meaningful. It is, curiously, the last national holiday that floats through the week. As I recall, there was an attempt to shift it to Monday, but that didn't fly.


Maria said...

I agree that WWI was rather a stupid war, etc, etc, but...
I'm reading a biography of Georges Vanier now. He fought in WWI, later became a diplomat to France, and then Govenor General. I think his cause for canonization is up, and one of his sons is Jean Vanier, founder of l'Arche.
Something I noted as particularly interesting was the way he viewed the war. He knew that war/the war was wrong, yet he did not feel at all that his role in it was wrong. By the time he entered, he saw his role, independant of the origins of the war, as being that of protecting all that is good, noble, true, civilized, virtuous, refined, and beautiful from the barbarism of baser passions -- the desire to conquer, the destruction to civilian life, etc.

Probably a more common view that made WWI seem almost adventurous was the more... American conviction that no people should be oppressed by the crown of another people.

Basically, I'm just saying that the dignity of WWI did not come from its origins, but from what it became.

Anyway, Georges would hate what we've turned our country into. He was always so concerned to respect the dignity of each person. I feel like saying 'Georges Vanier, pray for us', but he's not canonized yet.

Victor said...

Actually Father, the notion that WW1 was a stupid war was already conventional wisdom by the 1920s in the Western democracies.

This CW played no small role in US isolationism and Anglo-French appeasement in the 1930s.

Todd said...

At the risk of dipping into CAEI territory, it might have been an evil one as well, at least for the possibility that it alienated believers in Europe and may well have hastened the decline of Christianity there. What did four years get the West? An accelerated czarist/communism in Russia and eventually a Cold War that nearly destroyed the world. An aggrieved German people that gave rise to a leader who nearly destroyed the world. A Church and its values exposed as impotent in face of such catastrophes. Maybe the real miracle in Europe is that so many remain Christian in spite of it all.