Veterans Day 2021, the second year of a pandemic, when I can feel case numbers ticking up, as surely we all knew they would once colder weather arrived and people went indoors to breathe on each other. I think about the forces that shape society: disease and war and random terrorism that catapults a culture onto a different trajectory.
Before Veterans Day was Veterans Day it was Armistice Day which celebrated World War I, the war to end all wars. Except it didn't. Research the amount of death in World War II and try to process that many humans gone in just a few years.
Will we some day say the same thing about these pandemic years? Which is the more efficient killing machine, war or disease? They so often go hand in hand, so it's hard for me to know. And I know it depends on the war or the disease.
But it is Veterans Day, not Memorial Day. Let us now praise all veterans, the ones who saw combat and the ones who kept watch to try to keep combat from exploding. Let us praise the families and all the support staff, the ones who make it possible for veterans to do what must be done.
Let us think about the reasons why people join the military, reasons that have nothing to do with love of country and the desire to serve: health care, college expenses, lack of other employment options. At some point today, let us think about how we could craft a society that offers more options of all kinds.
Let us make treaties that don't trap us into responding to threats with ever expanding violence. If Archduke Franz Ferdinand had lived to be a boring elder, how would the 20th century have been different? No Treaty of Versailles might have meant no Hitler. No Hitler might have meant no creation of the modern nation of Israel. No World War I means that the Bolshevik Revolution might not have happened and thus, no Soviet Union.
Once I might have wondered if we were headed to a world with fewer veterans. But a world without veterans seems impossible in my lifetime. It does seem possible that fewer of us will know veterans. I think of my college friend's father and his obituary that listed all the wars he'd been part of in his long life. That kind of veteran experience seems increasingly rare.So today, let us spend some time staying mindful of the older holiday of Armistice Day, and the modern incarnation of Veteran's Day. Let us remember to give thanks for the sacrifices of so many who have made domestic peace possible. Let us pray for the government leaders of all our countries, in the hopes that they'll continue to avert catastrophes of all sorts, from the economic to the armed conflict to the planet destroying variety.