Veterans Day is holiday evolution. We celebrate those who made the ultimate sacrifice, and those who placed themselves in that jeopardy, on the day originally established to celebrate the end of one terrible conflict. World War I wasn’t originally known by that name; it was either the Great War, or the War to End All Wars. Evidently, someone didn’t get that message. As we continued to strive for newer and more efficient ways to solve problems by killing (in today’s parlance, productivity increases), we realized that celebrating the end of one war while folks were fighting another was offensive and wrong.
Veterans Day stands as one of two strident opportunities (Memorial Day is the other) to remind Americans the real definition and purpose of sacrifice. It is also, sadly, another opportunity for people to miss the point. I haven’t met many warriors who enjoyed war, or celebrated its glory, but I have met many people who think that Veterans Day is an opportunity to do both. We have, in our nation’s history, fought principled conflicts that led to noble results. We have fought conflicts for far less noble a set of reasons. Regardless of motive, warfare is vile, ugly, and hateful. Combat certainly reveals the character of an individual, but is just as certainly defines the weakness and evil of humanity at its worst.
The United States of America is a grand and glorious experiment in democracy. For two and a quarter centuries this nation has succeeded and failed to live up to the goals of the experiment. These goals, these self-evident truths, have been and continue to be worthy of the sacrifice of veterans. But this sacrifice requires more than a holiday to acknowledge. We celebrate the sacrifice of veterans today, but that sacrifice was sanctified on Election Day. The sacrifice will be further sanctified in January, when a new Congress is seated, and the President once again accepts his Oath.
The violence and injury, physical and emotional, that we our spared by our veterans is threatening to intrude on the nation that they sacrificed so much to protect. We are increasingly allowing our base emotions, the violence of our discourse, and our own mean dignity to intrude on this democracy. Are we not better at this grand experiment than the poor souls in so many other parts of the world; nations torn asunder at the very mention of an election?
It is time for the more mature, controlled, and intelligent among us to step forward in defense of the peace that follows the war. I do not suggest that it is time for either agreement or compromise. Liberals and conservatives should not lay aside their arguments, nor abandon their principles, they need only embrace the agreement and understanding that political combat must remain in the rooms of our democracy. Today, we celebrate those who have stepped forward with courage to defend what they love. Let us not defile their sacrifice by starting a war behind their lines.
The Rational Middle is listening…