I’ve never been a big fan of Veterans Day in the U.S. and that’s the clear “fault” of the realities of growing up directly after the fall of Vietnam and the crisis of Watergate. I sometimes thought that the war heros we typically celebrate or mourn in the United States were over-hyped and that the holiday itself was pure patriotism wrapped in fealty to the high offices of the land. I also thought that veterans themselves cared little about the working middle class and that, because “war” was an admission of the poverty of our imaginations, “veterans” were little more than serfs in the battle of those poor fantasies.
It’s hard to admit this today but it’s true. And kind of sad. After graduate school and an immersion in Jewish cultural history pre-1939, I became much more attuned to the world’s political realities and studied in Eastern Europe. It was there that I began to be able to give thanks to those who decided or had decided for them to fight against those in command of the European continent. I became tearfully impressed with those who sacrificed their very existence for the possibility (and it was just a possibility) that peace could break out in Europe and wrongs would be exposed. When I returned to the States in the late 1990s, I noted that Veterans Day was such a small holiday for most Americans.
In any case, here I am in Canada. And, while the US is embroiled in a major war in Iraq and other parts of the world, there seems to be so little media attention (at last online) being paid to those solidiers who died or are going to die. And, oddly, in Canada, the newspapers all week have pushed story after story about Canadians who died or who fought in wars during the past 100 years. Today’s newspaper here is full of information about how to celebrate Remembrance Day in town and there’s a huge pull-out section about the warzone’s lost and the living. Almost everyone is wearing these cloth red poppies on their coats in honor of this day. I’ve never seen such an outpouring of interest in remembrance of wars past and present.