Tag Archives: Veterans Day

Peace of Mind: Celebrating the Armistice Pals Project

11 Nov

armistice-palsToday is the 96th anniversary of the agreement that officially ended World War I, an official holiday in many countries that was once known as Armistice Day. Armistice is a powerful word, literally meaning the cessation of hostilities. The nations that had spent four years embroiled in armed conflict truly wished for it to be “The War to end all Wars” and established the annual commemoration to recognize the sacrifices and losses sustained on all sides.

Let us not forget that these losses disproportionately impact the marginalized/targeted and oppressed. However significant the military losses, the so-called “collateral damage” and impacts that linger long after the guns go quiet have stronger ripples among the poor and in communities of color.

Sadly, it was hardly the end of all wars, and over time most nations have chosen to rename the holiday. Most now call it some form of Remembrance Day, focusing on the soldiers but also pausing to reflect on all the casualties of war. In the United States, it has become Veterans Day, a fairly explicit recognition of the combatants.

A British group known as Armistice Pals is using this year’s holiday to raise awareness of the costs of war and to campaign for peace. What a novel idea, to campaign for peace. Helen Meissner, the director of the Folkstock Arts Foundation — dedicated to supporting acoustic musicians — recognized the long connection between folk music and peace campaigning. She assembled a group of like-minded individuals and organizations and Armistice Pals was born.

The group’s inaugural activity was a special recording of one of the finest anti-war anthems ever written. Where Have All the Flowers Gone? was written by the late, great Pete Seeger with Joe Hickerson in 1955. With its powerful imagery and striking chorus — “When will they ever learn?” — it has been recorded hundreds of times in dozens of languages and been awarded many honors.

Meissner collaborated with activist and singer Peggy Seeger, Pete’s sister and the widow of folk legend — and social justice champion — Ewan MacColl. Peggy was thrilled to be involved, continuing her long legacy of peace and social justice activism. She wants everyone to think carefully about the word “armistice” saying it

should be the buzzword for the minute people start disagreeing about something, then say “Wait, hold off, let’s see what this is really all about.”

That’s a powerful vision for using remembrance as a tool for avoiding future conflict.

Armistice Pals gathered dozens of folk musicians from several generations to record a stirring new version of Where Have All the Flowers Gone? Peggy Seeger leads the rousing chorus that closes out the song, and the producers include a few lines of Pete Seeger singing the original recording. Noting how community action can resolve — or avoid — conflict, Peggy celebrates the healing power of communal singing, calling it a big part of her brother’s legacy.

He loved getting people to sing together!

Let us use Armistice Day 2014 as a time to reflect on the painful price of conflict and a time to work together for peace.

More information on the Armistice Pals project, including an interview with Peggy Seeger and the lovely recording can be found at Folk Radio U.K. The new version of Where Have All the Flowers Gone? went on sale on November 9 and can be purchased from Folkstock Records as a special edition including three other tracks. Proceeds will go to the Foundation for Peace, Peace Through Folk, the Malala Fund, and the British Red Cross.

I hope we can all take a moment to reflect today on how each of us individually and collectively can make the world a peaceful place.

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Kristallnacht and Veterans Day

11 Nov

kristallnacht-bannerSaturday commemorated 75 years ago that the Nazis started the pogroms throughout Germany and Austria. This night in 1938 witnessed a strategic attack on Jews.  Kristallnacht — the Night of Broken Glass — marks the event where Jewish store fronts,  homes, and synagogues had their windows knocked out and smashed.  Jews were rounded up and sent to concentration camps.  The world learned on this night that the Holocaust had now started.  The Nazis were putting into play their “Final Solution.” 

This part of history is exceedingly ugly and painful.  We witnessed mortal racism and homophobia as Nazis assigned yellow stars and pink triangles to those they deemed unfit to live — people like Gad Beck. Sadly, we are currently seeing a rise in anti-Semitism in Germany and Russia.  We are also seeing a rise in homophobia around the world, including Russia, which is hosting the 2014 Olympics.

Thank goodness for all of the veterans and all those that helped to end World War II.  I do believe these veterans are heroes; they fought to ensure that regardless of our differing opinions and beliefs, the one thing that should unite us all is our shared humanity. That bond values those differences and does not try to limit them or take away people’s rights.

Call to action: I charge all people around the world to look for the humanity we all share and to interrupt oppression when we witness it. When we hear anti-Semitic, Islamophobic, homophobic, sexist slurs, we must interrupt that oppression or we dishonor those who fought to protect and cherish our common humanity and strove to create a level playing field.  We also strip ourselves of human dignity when we practice any form of hate against people who are different from us or collude in our silence with the oppression practiced by others.

For young kids, I would recommend reading Lois Lowry’s Number the Stars.

Bigot of the Week Award: November 11, The Spectre of DADT

11 Nov

This Week's Bigot's Victims

Even with the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell going into full effect, LGBT members of the military face continued pain and oppression. As the nation celebrates Veterans Day, it is worth noting the irony that one segment of the population that served to defend our nation is still subject to second class treatment. TSM questions the value of war and military intervention as the solution to problems. That being said, the military is a major employer and its treatment of its past and present employees has a long way to go.

The end of DADT changed the military’s policy, but much work is needed to change its culture. As Leonardo Lucio, a Navy reservist and NoH8 activist, recounts, even though he can serve openly, he is regularly subjected to gay taunts and slurs by his fellow service members. Veterans who were given dishonorable discharges in the days even before DADT are not eligible for benefits, regardless of how well they served their country, often solely because of who they are. (Kudos to Richard Pan of the California Assembly who is trying to ensure that this practice is overturned at least as far as state benefits!) Even when benefits are available, veterans can be subject to horrible abuse. Esther Garatie, 28, a former Marine lance corporal who lives in Dallas, sought treatment for depression at her local VA hospital; she was subjected to a tirade by the nurse, who told her she was depressed because of her “lifestyle of sin.”  Sadly, thousands of stories like these exist.

LGBT service members and veterans are the employees and retirees of our government. They deserve freedom from discrimination as much as any of the rest of us. Lifting the irrational ban on service was a positive step. We won’t be able to truly acknowledge their service, however, until the climate in which they serve can be purged of antiquated, hateful attitudes and behaviors.

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