Honor Veterans, Uphold Democracy
This Friday, November 11, marks the 93rd anniversary of the day the guns fell silent, ending what was then called “The War to End All Wars”. World War I, as it came to be known, was neither the first conflict of the 20th century, nor the end of anything. For the rest of the century, armed conflicts on both major and minor scale took place all over the world. The tradition continued: skirmishes both minor and widespread for the next two decades led up to the Nazi “blitzkrieg” of Poland in 1939 and the start of the Second World War. (We in the United States entered that conflict three years later with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.) Other conflicts followed: Korea, Vietnam, Bosnia, Somalia, Desert Storm, and in the new millennium, Iraq and Afghanistan. Peace ends, war never does.
The veterans of the conflicts of the 20th century and the first decades of the 21st are with us still, and conflicts around the world continue to swell their ranks, even while those who fought in earlier campaigns leave us in ever-increasing numbers every year. Many of those veterans, languish in lonely wards or isolated rooms in Veterans Administration facilities or nursing homes, often neglected. Their final resting places too, while not neglected, are certainly seldom overrun with friends, relatives or interested parties come to pay their respects. Even on those days set aside for remembering our departed heroes, cemeteries see progressively fewer visitors every year.
On Friday, veterans will march as they do every year. But their ranks will be sparser, their numbers fewer. And, sadly, so, too, will be the numbers of spectators who line the parade routes. For too many people, Veterans’ Day is a day off from school or work, a day to shop or run errands or just another ordinary work day. Its original meaning has long since been lost in the flood of mundane concerns that occupy everyone’s waking hours.
This past Tuesday, November 8, a general election was held in New York City. We in the borough of Queens voted for six candidates to fill seats on the 11th Judicial District bench of the New York Supreme Court and for the office of District Attorney. (The last contest was a shoo-in: Queens District Attorney Richard Brown was elected on the Democratic, Republican and Independent Party lines in his sixth full election since he was appointed to fill the office of Queens District Attorney by then Governor Mario Cuomo in 1991.)
America’s veterans fought and bled and their comrades in arms died so that we could have elections such as the one that took place this past Tuesday. Since its inception, and even before, our system of representative democratic government has been beset by foes who seek to destroy it— who feel that governments derive their just powers not from the consent of the governed, but from the strong-arm tactics of whoever is most determined to hold sway. From the War of Independence on, Americans have been willing to take up arms to defend this ideal from those who seek to eradicate it.
Too often we forget that the veterans marching in parades or standing with heads bowed for a moment of silence while flags are lowered to half staff are the reason we are free to have campaigns and elections. We forget that when we fail to register to vote, or do not bother to vote at all, we diminish the sacrifices of the veterans who willingly gave of themselves so that we might be free to exercise our choice at the ballot box.
We hope all of our readers who were eligible to do so voted in Tuesday’s election. We hope, too, that all our readers who can will take time out from whatever their activities may be on November 11, to remember those who willingly gave up at least a part, if not all, of their lives so that we might be free to observe this day in whatever way we see fit. They willingly put their lives on the line for the rest of us. We should not hesitate to honor that sacrifice by letting them know that we remember what they did for us. We can attend their parades, we can join in their memorial ceremonies and whenever we are eligible, we can vote. Their sacrifices must not be forgotten.