I honor the service that individuals make to the collective. However, when Veterans Day rolls around, I have a hard time thinking of service. Instead, I think about sacrifice—even more: useless sacrifice. Almost without exception (and even those exceptions are muddled), wars are nothing but turf battles where weak men die for the sake of powerful men’s interests. When I think of war, I don’t think of heroic men in a life-and-death struggle; I think of two ant colonies destroying themselves because it is in their DNA.
Thus, I think of Veterans Day as a somber occasion. It is a time to remember those victims who have been harmed by our pathological sociology. The normal kinds of Veterans Day celebrations of hubristic nationalism are part of the problem and only lead to more victims.
On this day it seems natural to salute all those who have been harmed by our war making. It doesn’t matter to me whether they did so voluntarily or not. The truth is that I don’t think anyone really does this voluntarily. (Of course, I don’t believe in free will either.)
In honor of all these people, I offer you a poem by Wilfred Owen—himself a victim of war: World War I. He was killed just one week before the end of that war. And as you see in the poem, he understood the nature of war. (For the record, “Dulce et Decorum est pro patria mori” means, “It is sweet and right to die for your country.” It is from one of Horace’s Odes, which are often lovely but from time to time nationalistic and horrible.)
Without life, there is no chance for justice.