Historically, Armistice Day was marked by nations to commemorate the end of World War I in 1918. As the years have passed since its first commemoration, the intention behind Armistice Day has been replaced in many countries by various “Veterans Day” or “Remembrance Day” celebrations that shift focus to glorifying the valor and heroism of military service members. However, brewing conflicts around the globe and the incredible escalations of the genocide of Palestinians call for an urgent re-centering of Armistice Day back to its original purpose of solemn reflection on the true nature of war: the innocent lives lost, the families torn apart, and the communities devastated.
The harrowing events occurring right now in occupied Palestine—as with any genocide—remind us of the flaws in any narrative that celebrates the warrior without abhorring the devastation of war. Airstrikes, bombings, and the ravages of modern warfare contribute to human suffering on a scale that echoes and builds upon the darkest hours of the twentieth century. Reports of endless atrocities and civilian casualties, an unimaginable collective maiming of an entire people, and the resultant refugee crises replete with their own horrors demand a global response of condemnation and collective grief. Today of all days, we should focus on the end of conflicts rather than on militaristic celebrations.
In this context, advocating for the return of Armistice Day is not an expression of disrespect to those who serve in the military either in the hopes of protecting their country, or to get free college tuition and job training, but rather to broaden the narrative to respect the horrors perpetuated upon both them by the nature of war and upon the people they have been commanded to fight against. We must take advantage of today for peaceful reflection on the costs of war. A re-imagined Armistice Day could serve as a powerful reminder of the shared human experience—that behind every warrior, there’s a tapestry of civilian life torn asunder by the machinery of conflict.
Recognizing the horrors of war should be at the forefront of Armistice Day. Instead of parades that romanticize military engagement, societies could engage in acts of silent commemoration, educational campaigns, and community dialogues that seek to understand the depth of wartime suffering and the importance of striving for peace. This day could serve as a global commitment to acknowledging past mistakes, mourning the lost, and dedicating efforts to preventing such tragedies in the future. In re-centering Armistice Day, we should highlight the testimony of survivors, the stories of those who’ve borne the brunt of conflict – veteran and civilian alike, and the narratives of the dispossessed. We need strong symbols that reinforce our collective disdain for the alarming regularity of war and our unwavering commitment to seek peace and reconciliation.
As such, reviving Armistice Day in its true essence would not only be a testament to history but also a beacon of hope, a solemn pledge that by remembering the horrors of war, we can commit ourselves to the cause of peace—a cause that should echo in our collective actions to demand a ceasefire and an end to military aid to settler-colonial regimes and anywhere else genocides are carried out. Only through such reflection and action can humanity start to mend the deep wounds of war and hope to prevent further atrocities.