Veterans Day as a Reflection of Peace Culture or Warrior Culture

This past week,  my Intro to Peace and Justice Studies professor gave us an extra credit assignment in which we were to evaluate whether Veterans Day was a reflection of peace culture or warrior culture in the United States. Here’s my response. What do you guys believe, and what does that mean for the United States and the international community? Is it of any significance?

The United States is composed of elements that define both peace and warrior cultures. While peace cultures strive for tolerance and positive peace, warrior cultures focus on aggression and domination. Veterans Day demonstrates how both cultures are engrained in American society. Initially, this national holiday marked the consummation of World War I and brought the hope of international peace. However, violence is still prominent, and Veterans Day now focuses on celebrating the lives and sacrifices of United States veterans.

It is necessary to understand the composition of peace culture in order to evaluate how Veterans Day is a reflection of such values. Peace culture is one that promotes peaceable diversity and value systems that promote individual caring and well being (Boulding 10/28). Veterans day was initially implemented to honor World War I veterans, as well as mark the commencement of international peace. This holiday ensures societal bonding as individuals remember past sacrifices and contemplate the importance of unity. The consequences of violence and the significance of peace can be seen through insightful analysis. An act approved on May 13, 1938, officially made November 11 a legal holiday, “dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as ‘Armistice Day’, “ (History of Veterans Day). Although this holiday was founded on the basis of warfare, it demonstrates society’s underlying desire for peace and international unity.

Veterans Day is also a reflection of warrior culture in the United States. Warrior culture is marked by power struggles, patterns of domination, frequent physical violence, constant competition, and attempted dominance over nature (Boulding 10/28).  Although this holiday was based on the concept of future peace, it was a direct result of brutal warfare. November 11 was initially believed to be the day that marked the consummation of “the war to end all wars”. However, because violence and warfare are still prominent in modern times, Veterans Day is now primarily associated with honoring American veterans of all wars. This national holiday is a time for “a celebration to honor America’s veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good,” (History of Veterans Day). This statement implies that the United States undoubtedly knows what actions are necessary for the “common good”. This is a reflection of warrior culture as it assumes that American ideals are superior to others, and violence defending such ideals is to be celebrated. Although Veterans Day acknowledges the cost of warfare, it also glorifies warrior culture, as commitment and suffering are valued and respected. This is a direct reflection of the United States’ societal values.  Veterans Day further engrains warrior culture into society, even though it was initially founded on the hope of international peace.

Veterans Day, originally known as Armistice Day, was initially founded after World War I to honor the sacrifices of veterans as well as to mark the beginning of international peace. This national holiday is a reflection of both peace culture and warrior culture in the United States. Veterans Day demonstrates the desire and need for peace by highlighting the sacrifices made in war. However, this holiday is a reflection of warrior culture, as it is based on US superiority and glorifies the military.

2 comments

  1. I am glad you bring attention to this day, Lauren, because it is now a synonym of patriotism and thus of great importance in the American collective consciousness. There is indeed an underlying duality of warrior and peace cultures in the US that is strongly present in the celebration of Veterans’ Day.

    Veterans’ Day is a reflection of the American attitude of superiority towards the rest of the world throughout history. Soldiers are glorified as warriors not just because they are “fighting the villain,” but also because they are seen as the heroes that defend the American values of freedom and democracy. As the United States has made these values the normative standard for itself and the rest of the world, the attitude of superiority has increased in the people, thus making it easier for the US to use the normative values as justification for military actions. Domestic efforts to further this way of thinking are marked by the cooperation between media and government, which has made sure to garner an almost unconditional support from American people by fostering a “peace through war” attitude. This is probably the reason why people do not think about the numbers of others that the US military has killed as a negative issue. In the collective American mind, the US is militarily involved for the greater good, taking on the role of peacekeeper, thus making warrior culture a necessary component of peace culture in the US.

  2. The idea that Veteran’s Day would honor the sacrifices of all America’s soldiers, rather than commemorating the armistice following WWI, was not meant to diminish the American commitment to peace. Rather it was exactly what it seems: the expansion of a day of remembrance and respect to all the conflicts that the U.S. has been involved in.

    Some think that Veteran’s Day is simply a day of nationalistic ceremonies, glorifying war and desensitizing us to the loss of human life. They are wrong. If anything, Veteran’s Day is about refreshing our commitment to peace. By mourning those we have lost, we ensure that war never becomes the easy choice. As anyone who has attended a Veteran’s Day ceremony knows, the sight of gravestones and weeping widows rarely whets the appetite for war.

    It is easy to denounce the military for unpopular wars, but we must remember that our soldiers volunteered to defend our country, not to invade others. Our soldiers are not perfect, but they go where they are sent, obeying orders and fighting honorably regardless of how they feel about their mission. For that, we honor them. It is our elected civilian officials who choose when and where we fight, and on Veteran’s Day, we would do well to remember that.

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