Yesterday, I left off saying I was not asking too much nuance of Veterans Day. That once before, on November 11th, we honored veterans in a sacred way. We glorified not just their sacrifices, but what they sacrificed for: peace, unity. And the idea that what made war worth it was not to “win”—but to lay down arms and live.
It was Armistice Day.
Or at least it was until 1954. Armistice Day celebrated the end of WWI. “The war to end all wars”—until it didn’t. And when it didn’t, Congress renamed (rebranded?) November 11th as Veterans Day to be inclusive of WWII and Korea. With the exceptions of 1976-1978, 1997, and 2000, we’ve been at war ever since. In fact, we’ve been at war 226 out of the last 243 years—93% of the the years since 1776.
War is inextricable from our national identity, and this doesn’t give us anywhere near enough pause. In fact, we seem to want more of it: militarized police forces, the cOnStiTutiOnaL riGhT to right own AK-47s. My subway station at 72nd Street is patrolled by cops who look fresh out of Call of Duty. (Don’t get me started on the NYPD’s new “precision policing” strategy. You can precisely guess who it polices.)
You may know him as one of the greatest American writers of all time, but did you know he was a WWII veteran? Or that he survived the bombing of Dresden in the meat locker of slaughterhouse? (Yes, book lovers. It was slaughterhouse-five.)
As a POW, Vonnegut was forced to remove jewelry from corpses before cremating them. "130,000 corpses were hidden underground,” he said. “It was a terribly elaborate Easter-egg hunt.”
Here’s what Armistice Day meant to him:
When I was a boy, and when Dwayne Hoover 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 some 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.
What else is sacred? Oh, Romeo and Juliet, for instance.
And all music is.
Hi. Did these last three emails make you want to crawl into a hole? Whitewashed Native American history! Jingoism! Two centuries of war! To make things better, let’s turn to NATURE 🌱
My monstera is sprouting two new leaves! Twins! You know what’s Latin for “twins?” Gemini. 😭
I love how new leaves grow inside the old leaves. You don’t even notice. Everything looks normal until one day you water it and realize AHHHH MY PLANT WAS PREGNANT THIS WHOLE TIME!
For a few days, these two will explore the outside world, keeping themselves furled up and safe. They only unfold when they’re ready. And when they do, oh baby. They spread out boldly—lovingly tied to their elder stems, bright green and glossy and drinking the sun.
There’s a lot we can learn from these little twin leaves. I’ll send you updates! 🌱🌱
💫 If you loved this, DO THE KRISTI: screenshot your fave parts and put ‘em on IG, Twitter, or FB. If any Gen Z ppl make a TikTok of this email, I’ll send you a Popeye’s chicken sandwich and something from Supreme???
You can write me a personal comment by replying to this email the old-fashioned way, or simply tap that heart below. Thank you, Gemmies!