Celebrating Resisters on Veterans' Day

By David Swanson

November 11th is Veterans’ Day in the United States and Remembrance Day, Armistice Day, or Poppy Day in various other countries. It was on a November 11th that World War I ended. But November 11th is also a Catholic holiday that long predates World War I: the Feast of Saint Martin, celebrated in honor of a man who supposedly died on November 11, in the year 397.

The two holidays seem to have merged into one militaristic glorification of warfare. Saint Martin is considered a military man. The military order of Saint Martin is a medal awarded by the U.S. Army Quartermasters Corps. As a military hero and a saint, one might easily assume that Martin was killed on that long past November 11th. In reality, Martin was the first non-martyr to be made a Catholic saint. But by making him a saint, the church was able to make us assume he was a martyr. Martyrs and veterans can be celebrated to glorify wars and are therefore quite valuable, whether real or not.

In reality we tend to neglect veterans, deny them health care and education, refuse them the treatment they need to deal with the hell they’ve been through, and walk well clear of them when we see them living homeless in the park. But in our collective imagination, we love to glorify veterans, and even more so those who die in war.

The odd thing about St. Martin is that he had a much better chance than most to die in war. He refused to carry a weapon and commited himself to walking into battle unarmed. His life was spared only because of a truce between the opposing armies. Martin died a natural death at age 81. Martin was not a veteran, not a follower of generals, not a supporter of a nation right-or-wrong, not a man willing to kill or injure other men in war. Martin was a conscientious objector, a war resister.

This Tuesday we should celebrate those who resist. Here are some of their stories:

This Tuesday we should listen to real veterans telling us what they have been through and why nobody should ever be put through it again. Here are some of their stories:

This Tuesday we should all, every single one of us, ask our newly elected congress members to swiftly and fully end the occupation of Iraq.

This Tuesday we should ask president-elect Barack Obama to include in his cabinet men and women who, unlike Joe Biden and Rahm Emanuel, were wise enough to oppose the invasion of Iraq:

This Tuesday we should visit our local recruiting stations and block their doors with signs that read “When every veteran has a job, a home, and health care, you can have another recruit, but not a moment sooner.”

Martin is the patron saint of beggars, appropriately enough. But how appropriate is it that we leave poor and desperate so many whom we have earlier subjected to the worst possible abuses, even while glorifying their caricatures in order to entice more young men and women to participate in the absolutely senseless creation of hell on earth?

Read about Martin in “Nonviolence: Twenty-Five Lessons from a Dangerous Idea,” by Mark Kurlansky.

Sing this November 11th:

If you love this land of the free
Bring ’em home, bring ’em home
Bring them back from overseas
Bring ’em home, bring ’em home

It will make the politicians sad, I know
Bring ’em home, bring ’em home
They wanna tangle with their foe
Bring ’em home, bring ’em home

They wanna test their grand theories
Bring ’em home, bring ’em home
With the blood of you and me
Bring ’em home, bring ’em home

Now we’ll give no more brave young lives
Bring ’em home, bring ’em home
For the gleam in someone’s eyes
Bring ’em home, bring ’em home

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