some thoughts on veterans day

Sunday was Veterans Day. Out of respect for the brave men and women who have served our country over the years, and not at all out of laziness and blog sloth, I have delayed my post about the holiday until today. Keep in mind that the official name is not Veteran's Day or Veterans' Day, but Veterans Day. There is some confusion on that, mainly due to Americans' total befuddlement when it comes to the proper use of apostrophes. I believe the day was originally "Veterans' Day", but when greeting card companies, newspapers, and everyone else kept messing it up, the government decided to ditch the apostrophe and pretend like they'd meant it that way all along. Honestly, it's as if the GI Bill had no effect on literacy whatsoever.

Veterans Day popped up after World War I, though it was originally known as Armistice Day. This reflected the hubris present at the end of World War I, originally known as the Great War, and the War To End All Wars. The official end came by the Treaty of Versailles (originally known as the Awesomeness Accord for Eternal Peace) at 11:11 on 11/11, and signed in a boxcar. People really believed that by making Germany sign the peace accord in humiliating fashion, on a super-memorable time and date, and fining the country five billion pounds, that would totally make those hostilities a thing of the past.

Hence, the holiday's name. It wasn't an armistice, it was the Armistice, the last armistice the world would ever need. No more war, ever, particularly not between those exact same nations in the exact same places in less than twenty years. Nothing good can come of such brazen arrogance, like buying a 24-pack of condoms after your third date with a woman, or when Dusty Baker let Russ Ortiz keep the game ball in Game 6 of the 2002 World Series. There's no way Germany would rebuild its military, or the girl would lose interest after Date #4, or Scott Spezio would hit a three-run home run off Felix Rodriguez, right?

The official change to "Veterans Day" came in 1956, accompanying by a proclamation that explained that the holiday was being expanded to honor veterans of all wars, and not just being changed because that armistice seemed really inconsequential after WWII. The proclamation might well have read, "Guess that 'To End All Wars' business was a crock, huh?"

Memorial Day, a holiday to honor dead soldiers, existed in various forms over a half-century before Veterans Day. Did American simply not care about military veterans until then? I believe that it wasn't so much a lack of respect for the military as it was that until the advent of antiseptic practices at the turn of the century, no one could really envision surviving a trip to the hospital, much less an entire war. The 1920's was the first time that there were significant numbers of surviving military personnel; until then, Memorial Day pretty much had it covered when it came to honoring people who'd served in the military.

So this year, Zembla hopes you treat all veterans with the respect and admiration that Giants general manager Brian Sabean exhibits when looking for free agents. And for God's sake, clean up that punctuation, America.


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This page contains a single entry by Sean Keane published on November 13, 2007 6:07 PM.

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