Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veterans Day

Yes, it is past the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh day, but I could not let the whole day pass without a post. From The Washington Post I give you this editorial, Veterans Day:
"ON THIS DAY 90 years ago, 'the monstrous anger of the guns,' in the words of the British war poet Wilfred Owen, was finally sated -- but only for a time. It was on Nov. 11, 1918, that the most destructive war yet fought in modern history ended by mutual agreement, with the guns still firing madly and men still dying right up to the hour of armistice: 11 a.m. It was seen by Americans and their allies as a day of peace -- but it was also the day that set the stage for an even more destructive war two decades later.

The Armistice of 1918 was really a defeat in disguise for Germany and its allies. The highest military leaders of that country knew their army could not go on, but they refused to associate themselves with what was, in effect, a surrender, and so they left it to the country's new, democratic civilian leaders to conclude what peace they could. Thus the forces of revenge -- extreme nationalists, racists, militarists and a wide range of preachers of hatred -- could claim that the country had not really lost the war but had been betrayed by liberal democrats, socialists, pacifists, Jews and others. And as they railed and ranted about the 'November criminals,' those in the West who had warred for four awful years saw in November 1918 a symbol of futility....

Today we have narrowed Nov. 11 to its rightful focus. This is a day of personal memory, a day of honor for our veterans, especially those who have died for their country. After nearly a century, it is still a poignant occasion, especially in Europe, where millions died. World War I, though, was the last war of the poets. Today our elegies are photographs, row on row, printed on certain days in this newspaper and in other places. The smiling faces of those lost to war are disturbing, moving and, in their own way, eloquent. But they leave one still wanting more power in our words, wishing that we could fashion memorials that might move some few souls a century hence, like the words of Wilfred Owen, killed in action on Nov. 4, 1918. "What candles may be held to speed them all?" he asked of the young men dying all around him:

Not in the hands of boys but in their eyes

Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.

The pallor of girls' brows shall be their pall;

Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,

And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.

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