Its just a few days Away from November 11th so I have decided to jump the gun and publish my yearly rant on the loss we all suffered when Armistice Day became renamed Veteran’s Day. I get more nasty comments from my blog on this subject than anything else I write in the course of a year. That is because people do not READ. If they do read, they lack the capacity to see past their own preconceptions. I am not anti-American and I do not disparage veterans. I am a brand man and I view the world through that lens. It is a lens of evaluating social and commercial happenings through the refracting lens of brand meaning.
Know this. The most powerful brands in the world have a focused meaning. The more dilute the message the less powerful the brand. The more we try to make a brand for EVERYONE, the less important the brand meaning (and power) become.
Armistice Day had deep historic significance
November 11 was a day of remembrance for the end of the First World War. “On the eleventh hour of the 11th day of the 11th month… all quiet on the Western front.” The deep scars and the immense loss of humanity during the Great War (it was no known as World War 1 until there was a 2nd World War) still makes the horror of this war difficult to comprehend. Wikipedia tells us that the total number of military and civilian casualties in World War I was over 38 million: over 17 million deaths and 20 million wounded, ranking it among the deadliest conflicts in human history.
The total number of deaths includes about 11 million military personnel and about 7 million civilians. In the battle of the Somme alone more than 1,000,000 men were wounded or killed. Contrast this with the casualty figures at the Battle of Gettysburg where there were 7,058 fatalities and another 33,264 had been wounded.
The horror of modern warfare came alarmingly home during this desperate conflict and Armistice day was celebrated, not just to honor those that died and served but also to proclaim the goal that this war, The Great War, was to be the war to end all wars. It was a day of remembrance of that horror and hoped to be a contemplative focal point to save the world from ever engaging in such madness again.
But, Americans, in their desire to make everything as vanilla as possible has discarded this meaning and replaced it with a day to honor veterans. Something I support, by the way, but I think it needs to be its own day.
How did a day of remembrance and a poignant promise to try to find peaceful means to solving national conflict become so vanilla? Because we enjoy trite phrases and simplified ideas.
If this makes you upset with me, then you have no interest in our history and as George Santayana once warned ““Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.” History should never be dumbed down. It should be remembered and honored. Warts and all.
We view the importance of Armistice Day through our own Bias
Does my upset over not calling Armistice Day Veteran’s Day annoy you? Everything depends on what you believe to be important. We all view these things based upon our own personal brands. Does any of the following upset you?
America has replaced Washington and Lincoln’s Birthday remembrance as Presidents Day. Municipalities’ want to remove the greeting of Merry Christmas with Happy Holidays. Greensboro NC (my present home city) renamed Lee Street to Gate City Boulevard. Universities renamed Easter Break with Fall Break.
We seem to do everything we can to strip our symbols of historical meaning from everything we do. What’s next? Should we rename Martin Luther King’s Birthday as Civil Rights Day? (By the way, Martin Luther King’s Birthday celebration was also celebrated for YEARS in Virginia as Robert E Lee Lee’s Birthday. (Celebrated since 1889. Jackson’s name was added to the holiday in 1904 naming the holiday Lee-Jackson Day. In another instance of watering down a remembrance).
Why don’t we care? Because political correctness prohibits student of history like myself from speaking about these issues because I am thought of as un-American. I guess we are OK with diluting any message unless it is an issue that we individually care about. For me, history should be celebrated and ANY dilution of that message is foolish at best and dangerous at its worst.
Let’s revitalize Armistice Day and reinvigorate Armed Forces Day as Veteran’s Day on the third Saturday of May. It is a day to pay tribute to men and women who serve the United States’ armed forces. Let’s allow the Holiday before Thanksgiving to be a time to contemplate the horror of war.
Here are two other blogs on the same subject.