We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields. – John McCrae
One of the more peculiar eccentricities of my cognition is the way it tends toward the use of archaic terms and formats. For some reason I’ve never quite been able to determine, I generally prefer older versions of things to newer ones; I love the romance of airships and trains over the sterile efficiency of airplanes, my favorite car (alas, currently parked at my ranch) is a replica of a 1929 Mercedes coupe, and whenever possible I cook from scratch. My dress style tends toward the retro, my desk is a roll-top and my reticence to get new cell phones is legendary. It’s rare that I read a book written after I was born or watch a television show recorded after I graduated from high school, and the astute reader has probably noticed that my writing style more closely resembles that of the 19th century than that of my native 20th. So it’s probably not surprising that I’ve been heard to refer to Istanbul as “Constantinople” without a trace of ironic intent, and I always refer to today’s observance by its original name, “Armistice Day”, rather than the more new-fangled “Veterans Day”.
But while I will acknowledge most of these as examples of my charming eccentricity and can even laugh at myself about them, I will seriously defend my preferred nomenclature for this day. It’s not only the fact that “Armistice Day” recognizes the actual reason for the memorial, the effective date of the armistice which ended the First World War 98 years ago today; nor it it the fact that some countries (such as France and Belgium) still refer to it by that name; nor the fact that the American use of the day to honor veterans both living and dead, whether they participated in a war or not, actually subverts the original intent of a day to honor those whose lives were senselessly lost in the greatest sustained campaign of carnage the world had to that point ever seen. No, it’s that for me designating the day as “Veterans Day” is, frankly, somewhat jingoistic and uncomfortably fascist. As longtime readers know, I have nothing against military men; if anything, I have kind of a thing for them. But respecting individuals isn’t at all the same as participating in the creepy mandatory obeisance we’ve seen growing over the past few decades, and dedicating a day to the end of a war is a far different thing from using it to glorify the machinery of war. As I’ve said many times before, the best way I can think of to honor veterans is to stop making so goddamned many of them.
Every year on this day, I’ve paid homage to the ancient and powerful relationship between warriors and whores, and I invite you to click on that link; the essay you’ll find contains more links to the earlier columns. But given that after the end of the Cold War, the US government decided to instead devote itself to endless and mindless warfare against both its own people and those of foreign lands, I decided this year to make note of another bond between whores and military men: our own government’s mad and evil campaign to destroy as many of our lives as possible for no reason whatsoever except the enrichment of the military/police-industrial complex and the self-aggrandizement of the evil sociopaths who declare themselves our rulers and believe they have the right to dispose of us as they will.