Eleventh Hour

Remember, remember this day in November

At the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month, armistice was declared and the Great War came to an end. Armistice Day- now, in America, we call it Veterans Day and we use it as an excuse to wave flags and promote sales (it’s the American Way!) 

But it is not strictly an American holiday.  When I studied abroad in the UK, the moment at 11:00 am was marked with a moment of silence and all movement in the Safeway where I was grocery shopping became still- a moment of remembrance, frozen in time. Armistice Day is the world wide memory of the end of the worst war that we could possibly imagine, swearing that it would Never Happen Again. Then, of course, came World War II. Because armistice means that the war has ended, not that peace has begun. 

For the longest time, I didn’t understand the significance of World War I: it seemed like the lounge act preceding the show stopping song and dance numbers of WWII. And in a way it was: I mean, yes, of course it was a massive war on an unprecedented scale with history bending consequences and millions of deaths, but it also built the context in which World War II could and did come about: the world wide disruption of political and economic systems which had been in place for centuries, the rising industrialization of society, and so on. I still know very little about the details of it: I’m not a historian, but on the human level I can easily imagine what it must have been like to live through it and to see every familiar assumption about your life and the world be changed before your eyes. 

Was it changed for the better? I’m not sure that I’m equipped to say. For better or worse, that watershed moment of the armistice marked the end of What Was and the beginning of What Will Be- leaving behind the buggy whip and taking up the car keys. 

While I’m making an effort to remember and thank my veteran friends for their service, I’m trying also to remember that this day stands for more than just flag waving and Veterans Day year end clearance!!! Everything must go!!! That it also stands each year as a threshold from What Was and What Will be, and that each year in the crossing we should ask ourselves: “are we entering peace? Or are we just leaving the war?”


~ by Gwydhar Gebien on November 11, 2016.

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