A Veterans Day Interview on NPR

by Rich Rubenstein on November 12, 2010 · 0 comments

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New York, November 11, 2010.  I am still exhilarated by my interview on the Leonard Lopate show today on WNYC, New York’s main NPR station.  Leonard is a wonderful interviewer and lots of people tuned in to hear about Reasons to Kill. Better yet, I met Edwige Danticat in the studio and told her how much I like her writing! [Note: to check out Rich’s interview on WNYC, click here: Rubenstein on Lopate]

One thing Lopate and I did NOT talk about was the holiday itself — Veterans Day — formerly known as Armistice Day.  World War I, the most ghastly war in human history for soldiers and other combatants, ended on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.  In remembrance of the war’s end, Congress passed a bill in 1936 providing that the day should be “dedicated to the cause of world peace and called Armistice Day.”  But in 1954, with the Cold War in full swing, the Eisenhower Administration changed the title to Veterans Day, and implicitly changed the purpose of the holiday from a celebration of peace to a celebration of war-making.

Among other things, this was redundant.  We already had Memorial Day,  which memorializes the sacrifices made by U.S. armed forces in wartime.  But the 50’s were years of transformation in which the War Department became the Defense Department, the war budget — sorry, “defense budget” — was jacked up far above World War II levels, “under God” was added to the Pledge of Allegiance, and America became a global empire, overthrowing independent governments from Guatemala to Iran, and sowing the seeds of our current entrapment in wars around the world.

Hey, it’s fine to honor the sacrifices made by American war veterans.  That’s what Memorial Day is for.   But enough bowing and scraping before the Military Gods.  Let’s change Veterans Day back into Armistice Day and have at least one national holiday dedicated to the cause of peace.

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