• It was nice to see Kurt Vonnegut’s name trending on social media yesterday because it meant that lots of people were reading his lovely passage in Breakfast of Champions. In case you missed it, or just want to read it again, here it is:
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 … 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 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.
Holidays show what we regard as holy, and thus encourage us to produce more of those things. “Armistice Day” encouraged us to create more armistices — more truces and treaties and other such opportunities for millions upon millions of human beings to stop butchering one another. Veterans’ Day encourages us to create more veterans and, therefore, fewer armistices.
I think perhaps a better way to honor veterans is to stop producing so damn many of them.
• And Eric Bogle via The Pogues:• And Wislawa Szymborska:
After every warsomeone has to clean up.Things won’tstraighten themselves up, after all.Someone has to push the rubbleto the side of the road,so the corpse-filled wagonscan pass.Someone has to get miredin scum and ashes,sofa springs,splintered glass,and bloody rags.Someone has to drag in a girderto prop up a wall.Someone has to glaze a window,rehang a door.Photogenic it’s not,and takes years.All the cameras have leftfor another war.We’ll need the bridges back,and new railway stations.Sleeves will go raggedfrom rolling them up.Someone, broom in hand,still recalls the way it was.Someone else listensand nods with unsevered head.But already there are those nearbystarting to mill aboutwho will find it dull.From out of the bushessometimes someone still unearthsrusted-out argumentsand carries them to the garbage pile.Those who knewwhat was going on heremust make way forthose who know little.And less than little.And finally as little as nothing.In the grass that has overgrowncauses and effects,someone must be stretched outblade of grass in his mouthgazing at the clouds.