For another few minutes, it will still be Veterans Day here in the U.S. Elsewhere, it was/is Remembrance Day and Armistice Day. Veterans Day is not really observed as a major national holiday in the United States, even though it is a federal holiday (I attend a public university and no one had the day off, for example). Memorial Day is the more widely observed honor-our-war-veterans holiday.
In my years living in Europe, I always contrasted how Europeans observe 11/11 –as a solemn day to reflect on the human toll of war– and how Americans observe Memorial Day.
11/11 in Europe – “War is a terrible thing, let’s not forget that.” The mood is gloomy, serious. Political leaders lay wreaths and talk about the necessity of building cultures of peace. This Armistice Day, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, a hawk by European standards, said the following about French WWI soldiers executed for disobeying orders and refusing to continue fighting:
“I think of these men of whom too much was asked, who were too exposed, who were sometimes sent to be massacred through mistakes by their commanders, of those men who, one day, no longer had the strength to fight.”
Memorial Day in the U.S. – Fireworks go off while “I’m Proud To Be An American” plays in the background and some guy in the crowd screams “Fuck YEAHHHHH!” And then, suddenly and ominously, I hear fire engines.
Different strokes for…different political cultures?