Recently, with the help of a good librarian, I located an article dated Nov. 12, 1918, in the archives of The Baltimore Sun. The scanned columns run long and skinny down my computer screen, a rhapsodic account of what happened a day earlier, when all the city poured into the streets after the Armistice was declared and the First World War was over.
GREATEST OF DAYS
IN TRIUMPHANT JOY
Most Remarkable Demonstration Ever
Seen in Baltimore Prevails From
Dawn Until Night
GENERAL HOLIDAY GIVEN
Governor And Acting Mayor Order All
Business and Activities Suspended As Soon As
News of Armistice Is Made Pub-
lic And People Rejoice
I love that the first line ends on celebrates and that the last line comes full circle with People Rejoice. In my notebook, I’ve written a title for this found poem: “One Hundred Years Ago.”
One hundred years ago, the people rejoiced in Armistice — literally, in the stopping of armed conflict. One hundred years ago this great nation set aside the “greatest of days” for solemn remembrance.
But one hundred years later, our nation seems to have abandoned the very idea of armistice altogether. Instead, we have shifted the focus of our celebration to the military, to those who actually carry the costly arms into costly wars we no longer even try to stop. It is telling that our current president was hoping for a military parade down Pennsylvania Avenue, glorious with flags and heavy artillery.
The piece from The Sun archives declares Nov. 11, 1918 “the greatest day in the history of the world!” But the reporter is quick to qualify “victory” for the reader:
“It was a victory not so much of material things: of ships and rifles, and cannon, and gas, and men’s lives, as it was a victory of the spirit, a spirit that even in the darkest of days did not acknowledge defeat, the spirit that never would admit that might was right or that brutality and savagery could triumph over humanity and kindliness and love and the decent things of life.”
On Nov. 11, 2018, I’ll be in Washington, D.C., joining other veterans — Veterans for Peace — in a silent march. We’ll carry a banner that reads “Reclaim Armistice Day.” For years now, Veterans for Peace have been cleaving to the original intent of Nov. 11th. We believe that a day celebrating peace, not war, is the best way to honor the sacrifices of veterans.