Veterans Day 2008
Every year, Zembla likes to take a look at underrated holidays, in hopes of a more perfect understanding of the special days that makes us Americans. And every year, Zembla posts this look after Veterans Day has already passed, so as not to dishonor the sacrifices of these brave veterans.
Even though I am an opponent of the war in Iraq, I definitely support the troops. The war is the only issue where people feel it necessary to add that qualifier: I hate this thing - but I totally support the victims of that thing. It's like saying, "I think juvenile diabetes is a terrible problem in this country - but I totally support little fat children."
Last year, I examined the audacity of the original Armistice Day holiday, and its grudging shift to "Veterans Day", once it became clear that the armistice of 1918 wasn't going to be the last one by a longshot. I also posited that the existence of two holidays to honor America's soldiers (Memorial Day being the other) was due to advances in medicine, allowing America's fighting men to actually survive wars. Until antiseptics existed, Memorial Day pretty much covered the veterans,
This year I am concerned more with the disproportionate celebrations associated with these two holidays. Memorial Day is always on a Monday, to allow for whole weekend of festivities. Memorial Day means beer, barbecues, and the Indianapolis 500. And this is the holiday for soldiers who are no longer around to enjoy it. By contrast, to many people, Veterans Day means...going to work like it's a normal day. Perhaps it is easier to honor former soldiers that you don't actually have to visit. America doesn't even force Veterans Day to a Monday or Friday. People would rather go into the office than go to a nursing home.
Veterans Day Planning Meeting
"So, it's agreed. Veterans Day is November 11th."
"Hey, just a thought. Why don't we make it the second Monday in November? That way, there's a three-day weekend, and it's easier for people to go see their grandfathers."
"Do you want to visit those depressing old people?"
"OK, 11/11 it is."
In San Francisco, Veterans Day may have a perception problem. The most common image of veterans in SF is homeless men in camouflage jackets. One's primary association for "veteran" isn't a member of the Greatest Generation vanquishing the Nazis; it's a guy you feel especially guilty about not helping.
So, America, let's really honor our vets. Move the holiday to a Monday. Failing that, don't go to work! Have a beer! Or go to work and have beers there! After all, isn't what we were fighting for?