Occasional blogging, mostly of the long-form variety.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

11/11 Armistice Day 2009

(Click on the comic strip for a larger view)

In 1959, Pogo creator Walt Kelly wrote:

The eleventh day of the eleventh month has always seemed to me to be special. Even if the reason for it fell apart as the years went on, it was a symbol of something close to the high part of the heart. Perhaps a life that stretches through two or three wars takes its first war rather seriously, but I still think we should have kept the name "Armistice Day." Its implications were a little more profound, a little more hopeful.

Amen, brother.

Thanks to all who have served or are serving, on this Veterans' Day, or Remembrance Day, or Armistice Day.

This post is mostly a repeat I run every year, since I find it hard to top Kelly.

However, this year I'm also using this post for an overview, linking a set of new pieces I'm posting over the course of the day (as part of an ongoing series on war). The starred posts are the most important, but the list is:

"Élan in The Guns of August"

"Demonizing of the Enemy"

"The War Poetry of Wilfred Owen"

***"Giddy Minds and Foreign Quarrels"

"The Little Mother"

***"War and the Denial of Loss"

The most significant previous entries in the series are:

"How to Hear a True War Story"

"Day of Shame"

"The Poetry of War"


Update: I linked a number of other bloggers' posts on 11/11 here.


aimai said...

Great series of posts. The Wilfrid Owen set made me dig out my book of war poems. I'm also planning to re-read The Great War in Modern Memory. Paul Fussell's great study of the literature and imagination of the First World War.

I, too, detest the transformation of Armistice Day into Veteran's Day. Where one memorialized the end of war, the other memorializes the soldier as victim and sacrifice without condemning the war itself. Its like the transformation of Mother's Day from a statement of grief and power against war into a chocolate box holiday of gift cards and flowers.


Eleanor said...

A fine group of posts. Thank you.

MaryK said...

I have a book, "J.R.R. Tolkien and the Great War" which delineates how important this experience was to the young man who would return to his life as a nascent academic, thinking in terms of the battle between good and evil.

watchdog said...

I am an active duty soldier, who has been to Iraq so technically I can be classified as a vet (I don’t particularly enjoy the idea of being called one, I did nothing even remotely similar to real vets of past wars). I am also a student of history and of the Great War in particular, the reason why the name change from Armistice Day to Veterans Day is due to the Second World War. Used to commemorate the veterans of both wars (but apparently, only here in America), the unfortunate fact is that today many Americans probably don’t know this. Last night I went out to eat, the restaurant had little poppies that you could pin to your lapel, I found myself wondering how many of the people around me even knew why the poppy was being used and what significance it has to the day itself.
In America we elevate the Second World War to mythic levels; it’s the “Good War”, as if any war could ever be good. I realize that it is viewed this way due to the easy ‘good vs. evil’ simplicity of the war. On the surface it does not appear to be really ambiguous as compared to many other wars. I’ve always perceived that the average American Knows only of The Revolution, the Civil War, WWII and Vietnam (only because it’s still within living memory), these wars all on the surface seem to be very simple to explain and understand-this one was fought for freedom, that one was fought to free the slaves etc- all of the wars that happened in-between these wars are less known probably because they are more ambiguous and not easily explained why they happen. I can’t help but wonder what Americas collective memory would be like had the Second World War not happened, how well remembered would our very brief involvement in the First World War have been, with all of its fog of war and reasons intact.

Batocchio said...

Thanks to all who have stopped by.

aimai, great point about Mother's Day. I actually just got an illustrated version of Fussell's book (posters, photos from the time). I've only read selections before, so I'm looking forward to it, since the war hangs so heavily over one of my favorite novels, Mrs. Dalloway, and over Sartre, Britten and others... I've also only read selections from Fussell's book Wartime. ( E.B. Sledge and Studs Terkel talk about both Wilfred Owen and Fussell.) I took a college class that was supposed to the U.S. and Britain in WWI and WWII, but wound up being mostly on Britain in WWI. The teacher was mediocre in the classroom, but some of the materials he picked were superb, and I'm very grateful for the exposure.

MaryK, I'll have to check that one out. I've read one article on the subject that probably drew on that book.

Watchdog, thanks for your perspective. I'm glad some in some nations they still wear poppies in the lapel and call it Armistice Day or Remembrance Day. As you say, WWII was horrible, but more people felt pride (some quite justifiably) at the end compared to other wars. I think the sense of accomplishment has been conveyed over the years, but not how horrible the war actually was (and how horrible it always is). The crowd hysterically calling every foe Hitler and labeling basic sanity appeasement doesn't help. It's a dangerous, cartoon version of history. I really wish more people (more Americans mostly) studied and learned about WWI. There's nothing of G.I. Joe, the A-Team or Rambo in the Battle of the Somme.