Monday, November 11, 2013

They're Firing Cannons Across the Street!

Today is November 11th and the cannons started blasting at 11am in Queen's Park just across the street from the building where my office is located. It's a day when we should remember the horrors of war and the waste of lives, both civilian and military. It's a day when we should resolve never to let army generals run the world. It's a day to reflect on the many times that we failed to keep the peace and the terrible cost of those mistakes.

So how do we celebrate peace and remember the evils of armies, guns, and bombs? In Toronto we do it by a public display of soldiers dressed in their finest uniforms bedecked with medals. And the army brings its cannons. It's all very glorious.

I long for the day when we don't even have an army and all the cannons are rusting in some junk heap. That will be the day when we have truly learned about the evils of war and the purpose of November 11th.

I agree with PZ Myers when he asks Who deserves honor?


12 comments :

  1. I'd be interested to know when you think we've "let army generals run the world." I think your post is fatally flawed from this premise on.

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    1. I don't want army generals to run the world and I don't think it has ever happened in the exact literal sense that you worry about.

      However, there have been plenty of times in the past when generals have had an undue influence on major events. August 1914 is a good example. So is Japan in the 1930s. There are more subtle influences that are just as bad. Perhaps you've heard of the military-industrial complex?

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    2. "Exact literal sense"

      "...let army generals run the world" seems a bit tough to misinterpret.

      August 1914 - well, I'm waiting for Margaret MacMillan's book on the causes, In the several interviews I've read or listened with her, I don't recall anything close to "generals running the world" being mentioned.

      I just suspect that you're considerably overstating your case.

      And I suspect that Curtis Lemay died a frustrated man.

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    3. Scott, I don't think that Larry overstated his case at all. First of all, he said: "It's a day when we should resolve never to let army generals run the world." Notice the words "we should resolve never to let". I take that as meaning in the future. Second, it is very accurate to say that individual or combined army generals (i.e.militaristic rulers) HAVE run many or all parts of the world in the past, and to many of those rulers and the people they ruled 'the world' was that particular part of the world because it was either the only part of the world that those people knew existed or was the only part they ever saw.

      Rule has always been by force. Some force has been or is worse than others but it ultimately still boils down to force, and some parts of the world are currently run by hardcore militaristic rulers, or what could be called or actually are called "army generals". And if you think that military generals have no influence on how all countries are currently run, think again. Think about the term 'superpower'. And how many countries have no military at all?

      Yeah, some military is necessary for most or all countries, but it's horrible that it's that way. I think the message that Larry is trying to convey is that it would be wonderful if the world had learned from past wars to stop engaging in wars and making militaristic weapons a long time ago and that the people who died in wars should be honored by having thoroughly peaceful, non-militaristic, non-cannon-firing days of remembrance. When will we, the human race, learn to stop waging war and start to behave like 'civilized' beings should? It's way past time for the human race to grow up.

      I share Larry's wish:

      "I long for the day when we don't even have an army and all the cannons are rusting in some junk heap."

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  2. November 11th is a perfect day to commemorate the victims of war, including the victims who were soldiers. It is the date of the Armistice that ended World War I. The aftermath of that war produced powerful literature and art that expressed the revulsion of a generation against the forces that had brought about such a meaningless war in which ordinary people whose political and social views were similar were organized to slaughter each other. Historians have come to agree with that revulsion.

    In the middle of the 1950s, after the necessary struggle to defeat the Nazis, and with U.S. society in a paranoid and jingoistic mood, "Armistice" was a dirty word, so the U.S. Congress changed the name of the holiday to Veterans' Day. "Armistice" was too pacifistic, probably some pinko conspiracy.

    Let's celebrate Armistice Day, and the many brave people who tried to resist and oppose World War I. Albert Einstein (technically then a Swiss citizen) signed petitions in Berlin against the War. Bertrand Russell was jailed. So was the great leader of the American Socialist Party, Eugene Debs. They and the ordinary soldiers on both sides in World War I, who recognized each others' suffering and refused to hate each other deserve more of us than pomposity and arrogant nationalism.

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    1. nice to see someone else using the original name of the commemoration. The point of the day should be that until there's a general, democratically arrived at, plan for human habitation of the Earth, with a stabilized economy and population, then it's always just an armistice.

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  3. I confess to feeling ambivalent about November 11, whatever people want to name it. As Joe Felsenstein says, World War I, produced powerful literature and art that expressed the revulsion of a generation against the forces that had brought about such a meaningless war. However, the poem Canadians remember best is "In Flanders Fields" (for obvious reasons) rather than "Dulce Et Decorum Est."

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  4. Larry,

    If you'd ever like some white poppies, I have a couple I could mail to you. I work with Science for Peace at the U of T campus and many of our members share your concerns about the tone of commemorations on important days like today.

    Bryan Eelhart
    Science for Peace

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  5. Larry, I did't think you would get much support on this issue. You are getting mine. I personally feel that wars, but especially WW-1 and WW-2 are the greatest failures of humanity and religion as a whole, with very few exceptions of pacifistic groups and religions that unfortunately can be counted on the fingers of one hand.

    Also, the link to P.Z. Myers' blog seems to be broken. He's getting my support too.

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  6. Lot of error here if a creationist may say so.
    We are remembering the worthwhile cause for why our men fought and those who died or were wounded. We are not opposing war on this day orthinking about the other side or victims generally.
    this is for our nationalistic motivations. This is for Canadians who did or do fight for our causes.
    Likewise we will do it again. No end in sight.
    The bible teaches war is just if its a just cause.
    War is using physical force to defend ones bodies or bring judicial punishment.
    We and generally the English speaking nations have always been the good guys and God blesses our victory.
    We live today in justice or wealth or disinterest about great things because our forefathers put their lives and fun on hold to defend whats right.
    I question if canadians should of gone to the first world war as it seems it was more about loyalty to Britain then about who's the good guy.
    I understand it was largely British immigrants who made up the first Canadian army to go over. However motivations are difficult to figure out.
    I always loved remembrance day as it was about important things and glory for my people and nation. Also it always rained on this day as if cleansing the blood from the ground.
    There are many problems in cAnada and this day reminds us of how much we must and might have to do to keep God's and mans justice ruling over us.
    Lets remember.

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    1. I don't know the bible well. I admit it but I have a hard time believing that "the bible teaches war is just if its a just cause" therefore followers of Christ can kill themselves in the right cause, such as nationalism. If I'm Italian born Christian living in Canada and Italy invades Canada, I'm ok to kill Christians from Italy because it is just including not only members of my faith but are also my family who still live in Italy? How could this be just by any standard of justice not to mention God's?

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    2. """" If I'm Italian born Christian living in Canada and Italy invades Canada, I'm ok to kill Christians from Italy because it is just including not only members of my faith but are also my family who still live in Italy? How could this be just by any standard of justice not to mention God's? """"


      because



      """"We and generally the English speaking nations have always been the good guys and God blesses our victory. """"


      Welcome to the bizarro world of Byers.

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