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The Voice of God

Kurt Vonnegut Jr once wrote, with regards to Veteran's Day in Breakfast of Champions:



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.


Now, I have a lot of issues with Breakfast of Champions, but not with this quote. After all, what is Veteran's Day anymore? IOt's just a day. School goes on. Work goes on. The banks close, but banks take any excuse to close. Rednecks fire guns into the air, but rednecks take any excuse to fire guns. 99 years ago, the world was fighting a war the likes of which is had never seen for the first time. 95 years ago, that war ended and the world thought it had ended war forever.

We are at a date nearly 100 years from the start of global war. And where are we?

Samuel Hynes writes:


A generation of innocent young men, their heads full of high abstractions like Honour, Glory and England, went off to war to make the world safe for democracy. They were slaughtered in stupid battles planned by stupid generals. Those who survived were shocked, disillusioned and embittered by their war experiences, and saw that their real enemies were not the Germans, but the old men at home who had lied to them.


100 years later, and what have we learned? How many wars have we fought since then? How many people have we slaughtered? How many children orphaned, women widowed, home destroyed? What have we gained, other then better and more effluent ways to kill ourselves for the most pointless of reasons?

There are reasons for war. There are reasons to kill. But WWI was a stupid war. WWII - that was fought for reasons, for ideals, - but WWI was a war of abstractions, where soldiers were killed to make the world safe for democracy, whatever that means. An archduke got shot, dignities were offended, and a war was started. What sense does that make?

I know it was more complicated than that. But, really, what were we fighting for? What are we fighting for now? I couldn't tell you if I tried. ​Make the world safe for democracy, freedom isn't free, times like these.... Well, news flash. All times are like this one. There is nothing new under the sun. We have always faced the challenges we have now, wrapped in different packages for sure, but the same challenges. Freedom has always been free. The world doesn't need to be safe for democracy; it needs to practice democracy.

I long for the day when we can solve despots without war. I long for the day the human race can be as evolved as it claims to be.

But we were born of risen apes, not fallen angels, and the apes were armed killers besides. And so what shall we wonder at? Our murders and massacres and missiles, and our irreconcilable regiments? Or our treaties whatever they may be worth; our symphonies however seldom they may be played; our peaceful acres, however frequently they may be converted into battlefields; our dreams however rarely they may be accomplished. The miracle of man is not how far he has sunk but how magnificently he has risen. We are known among the stars by our poems, not our corpses. (Robert Ardry)


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