History is determined by those who write it. This is why I like my tattoos. I know that they are an unchanging documentation of the choices I have made. My tattoos are my history; I put them on my body to force me to remember. Personal perspective denies me the ability to act recklessly in situations where I should know better. Without history my body would be covered with indelible bookmarks that look like painful, embarrassing and ugly scars. America has a bad habit of forgetting why they got their tattoos. At 11a.m. on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, the world sat in history’s tattoo parlor as the most violent and ugly war we had ever known ended. The month, time and day were buzz sawed into America’s biceps so she would know better than to flex them for reckless reasons. Armistice day sounds like something permanent and humble, it sounds like a moment when this country could remember a violent drunken mistake and the sobering repercussions of 8 million lives lost.
President Eisenhower established the first Veterans Day on November 11, 1954 in order to give all of those killed in American War’s a day of remembrance. The exact language he used was, “the United States has been involved in two other great military conflicts, which have added millions of veterans living and dead to the honor rolls of this Nation.” If our history were skin the tattoo terminology that would be used for this new ink would be a “cover up.” A cover up is a new tattoo placed on top of an old tattoo in order to space on the body. I don’t have any cover-ups.
Today my neighborhood smells like America, like Bar-Be-Q’s, gasoline and working class liberties. There are no reminders of our inability to stop ourselves from resorting back to violence. The most I have seen of the military in my neighborhood in the last week were a few recruiters trying to sell death to the many first generation Americans who live here. I wonder if they tell the new recruits that over 25% of the deaths in Iraq have come from minorities. I wonder if when the decision was made to invade Iraq the powers at be thought about the resignation this country made in 1918 to never let a death toll go unchecked or if it realized that most of America has forgotten. The 8 million killed in W.W.I now looks like a small watermark on the currency of war that we have come to think of as a “necessary” means to perchance peace. Veterans Day is an open-ended casualty cover all that continues to grow with each generation.
Armistice day was a high water mark; Veterans Day is a blank check. This is the difference. My history is written so that it absolutely cannot change. America’s is written so that it absolutely can.
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