I enjoy reading about the Edwardian era, World War I, and the rise of modernism. There is something haunting about the "first modern war." It removed the ideas of honor and nobility from battle and replaced them with senses of nihilism and inhumanity. So while everyone has been talking about Veterans’ Day, I’m remembering that it began as Armistice Day, a celebration of the end of the “war to end all wars.” The veterans of that war are gone, and so the day has become meaningful for all veterans that have served in the wars since then. But I worry that the day has become a celebration of military instead of a celebration of peace.
So I was interested to come across this quote by Kurt Vonnegut who shares my feelings about Armistice Day:
"I will come to a time in my backwards trip when November eleventh, accidentally my birthday, was a sacred day called Armistice Day. When I was a boy, and when Dwayne Hoover was a boy, all the people of all the nations which had fought in the First World War were silent during the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of Armistice Day, which was the eleventh day of the eleventh month. It was during that minute in nineteen hundred and eighteen, that millions upon millions of human beings stopped butchering one another. I have talked to old men who were on battlefields during that minute. They have told me in one way or another that the sudden silence was the Voice of God. So we still have among us some men who can remember when God spoke clearly to mankind. Armistice Day has become Veterans' Day. Armistice Day was sacred. Veterans' Day is not. So I will throw Veterans' Day over my shoulder. Armistice Day I will keep. I don't want to throw away any sacred things."
After years of brutal fighting, of orders and bullets and screams, the silence is louder than any sound. God doesn’t need to use a loud, thunderous voice to get our attention. In fact, sounds only get in the way of the communication. A moment of silence. A moment of memory for those who died. A moment of reflection at what destruction we’ve wrought on ourselves. A moment of relief that the nightmare is over, that redemption is coming. One silent moment says more than words could.
Armistice sounds like the stopping of bullets and tanks and planes and yelling. Armistice sounds like two men looking at one another without letting language or ideology or any other divider cause strife between them. Armistice sounds like silence. And silence is a sacred space, untainted by distracting noises. Silence is where we encounter ourselves, our reflections, our emotions when stripped away from noisy influences. Silence is where we hear God most clearly.