Well this should be a popular opinion…

Fuck Veterans Day.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not unreasonable at all to have a day of remembrance and mourning for the people who have sacrificed their lives and safety in order to protect their homes. It’s just that we already have a day for that, Memorial Day.

Also, the last time the U.S. military actually did any of that was World War II. Every other military conflict of the last 150 years or so, and quite a few of the ones before that, were pure imperialist assertions of power. Even World War II was mostly an assertion that the islands of the Pacific were our imperial protectorates, not Japan’s; that the alliance of empires on the other side were rather a lot more horrific than the alliance of empires on our side is mostly a happy coincidence. (Well, happy for the Allies, not so much for the people who lived in those empires. Or for Japanese-Americans. Or… well, you get the point.)

And, I mean, being a soldier is one of the few ways in which a working class or lower middle class American can get a decently paying job or an education. We should be at least as sympathetic toward them as we are toward the young people pushed into gangs by similar social pressures. Admittedly, gangs have done a lot less harm in the world than the U.S. military, but you wouldn’t know it from the media, which tend to villify the former and laud the latter. It’s really not their fault.

No, the problem is that Veterans Day isn’t about mourning sacrifices or solemnly pondering necessary evils, it’s about a jingoistic celebration of authoritarian, imperialist might. It’s about speeches where our leaders try to one-up one another in their over-the-top declarations of how utterly fantabulous it is that a significant percentage of our society and economy is dedicated to the pursuit of slaughter and destruction in foreign lands. It’s about the lie that spreading chaos and death makes us safer, that “we fight them there so we don’t have to fight them here,” as if there would be a “them” if we weren’t fighting there.

So yeah. Fuck it. Have a Peace Day instead. Or move Election Day to November 11 so we can all have that off. Better yet, make it the second Monday in November or something, because holidays that don’t create three-day weekends are stupid.

But that won’t happen any time soon, because the U.S. is a highly aggressive imperial power, and we now exist in a state of perpetual war that our leaders have no interest in ending. But that doesn’t mean we have to celebrate it.

0 thoughts on “Well this should be a popular opinion…

  1. What makes it more interesting is to see how it's changed from when Veterans Day was still Armistice Day. Originally meant (in the US at least) as “a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace”. It morphed into Remembrance Day in the UK (with much the same function), and, as you said, Veterans Day in the US.

    As a side note: Memorial Day started as a day to decorate the graves of American Civil War soldiers, until the mid-'60s when it became codified as a day to celebrate all American war dead.

  2. That giant concert on the Mall is kind of gross. I know a lot of veterans (most of them medical military from my church), but I don't think that's a great way to appreciate them. It's just “rah rah America.” Bah.

  3. Yeah. In Australia we have the same thing with ANZAC Day. Supposedly a day “lest we forget” the soldiers who died in WWI and other wars, actually used to glorify the military and promote the claims of a brave Australian “ANZAC spirit” which Howard then used to promote the Iraq war.

  4. My sense, at least the way my friends and acquaintances commemorate the two days, is that Memorial Day is for those who died, and Veterans Day is for those who are still alive. So, for Memorial Day we put wreaths on military gravestones, but on Veterans Day yesterday, friends greeted an Honor Flight, sent thank you cards to veterans in the VA, visited elderly veterans, etc. Now, I totally agree that politicians, the media, and US-ians in general can ruin anything with uber-patriotic jingoism. And I'd love to see Election Day be a federal holiday. But I also think we treat our veterans poorly once they come home (see: higher than average veteran suicide rate; higher than average veteran homeless rate; poor treatment of PTSD, poor treatment of effects of traumatic brain injury, etc), and I like taking a day to recognize ways we can help the veterans who are still with us.

Leave a Reply