A day of peace and friendship

Today is Armistice Day, also known as Veterans’ Day. It’s also Canandaigua Treaty Day, which will be celebrated in Canandaigua with a parade and ceremony of thanksgiving. I don’t know if America will ever fully make the leap from having a day set aside to remember the sacrifices of people fighting in wars, to having that day be a nationally recognized day of commitment to peace as well. I believe that the two commitments are not mutually exclusive.

Brothers, we hope you will make your minds easy. We who are now here are but children; the ancients being deceased. We know that your fathers and ours transacted business together, and that you look up to the Great Spirit for his direction and assistance and take no part in war. We expect you were all born on this island, and consider you as brethren. Your ancestors came over the great water, and ours were born here; this ought to be no impediment to our considering each other as brethren. –Red Jacket, speaking to Quaker treaty observers, Canandaigua, 1794

5 thoughts on “A day of peace and friendship

  1. sean

    i appreciate your point. part of the reason for the solemnity of veterans day is the whole idea of showing appreciation, even grief, for men and women who enduired traumatic events that are beyond the ken, seeing things that go beyond what we are supposed to be capable of as human beings, men and women who then have to come home and put that behind them and move on. that is as much a sacrifice – you sacrifice your reassurance about humanity – as courage in battle.

    but i am also troubled by the very strict cultural definitions in this nation of courage, perseverance and sacrifice. men and women who give up chunks of their lives in military service for their country absolutely deserve high honor. so do people who devote their lives to working with the impoverished, or the sick, people who devote their lives to teaching literacy, people who sacrifice their lives for a higher cause. john f. kennedy had plenty of troubling flaws – history relentlessly bring us more of them – but the one staggering achievement of his administration was the ability to touch those higher chords in mainstream america, the idea of service itself as patriotism.

    in our present climate, too often, those ideals are confused with weakness.


  2. Ellen

    I’m a little confused about Veterans Day and what it means today. I always thought it was for honoring people walking among us who had served in the armed forces during wartime – whether they were “not wounded,” disabled, or (as in your column today) on the fringes of society.
    And I thought Memorial Day in May was set aside to honor members of the armed forces who gave their lives and were no longer among us.

    Is that not the custom any more? Although this is wartime now (and I assume that’s why it appeared), I noted that on the front page of the paper this morning, under “Veterans Day 2007,” there was a teaser for an item about a soldier who died recently in Iraq. Would you say that the holiday become conflated with Memorial Day now, or is it just because of the ongoing war?

    BTW, re your column- In this country we don’t often have to think of the connection between war and homelessness. Of course, in places like Europe, Japan, and now Iraq they understand that connection very well. Homeless people in general seem to me to lack trust or connection to institutions that could help them find home (family, companies to work for, aid agencies, etc), and war is the great institution-destroyer. So it was nice to read in your column about one institution that some homeless veterans have faith in.

  3. sean

    what was it bruce said?

    I’m on my own, I’m on my own
    And I can’t go home …

    (… “home” being the last and most devastating institution to get destroyed).

    re – veterans and memorial days. i’ve noticed the same thing. i suppose the fine line is that
    part of what our veterans bear home from their wars is the memory of the lost. but the day is also set aside for all vets, including the folks who served from, say, 1978-82, never saw combat, did their jobs and still gave up a chunk of their life to service. maybe those are the ones who get most forgotten.

    – sean

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