Stand for Peace on Armistice Day

From the Nov/Dec 2019 PNL #869

Ron VanNorstrand

Veterans for Peace and SPC activists gather on the steps of City Hall on Monday, November 11 for
a Reclaim Armistice Day vigil. Photo: Carol Baum


Over a hundred years ago the world celebrated peace as a universal principal. In 1918 the First World War had just ended and nations mourning their dead collectively called for an end to all wars.  Accordingly, Armistice Day was conceived as “a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated." Nations determined that the best way to remember soldiers killed and injured in war was to honor the end of the so-called War to End All Wars, rather than glorify the war and the military in general, which would only lead to further wars. However, following World War II and in the midst of the Cold War, Congress decided that in the US, November 11th would be renamed Veterans Day. Armistice Day was flipped from a day to celebrate the end of war into a day for displays of militarism, the true beneficiaries of this mutation being military contractors and weapons manufactures.


On November 11th the local chapter of Veterans for Peace (VFP) and Beyond War and Militarism (BWAM), a joint committee of the Syracuse Peace Council and CNY Solidarity Coalition, once again combined their efforts to reclaim Armistice Day as a day to celebrate peace, not war. More than thirty community members including veterans gathered on the steps of Syracuse City Hall for a vigil. Mayor Walsh was also invited to join us. He was not able to be there; however, he did issue a proclamation declaring November 11, 2019 to be Armistice Day for Peace in the City of Syracuse.* We should all thank Mayor Walsh for his inspiring proclamation and leadership.


At the Armistice Day event, we acknowledged that we stood on the Land of the Onondaga Nation and thanked the Nation for teaching us how we may live peacefully with each other and in communion with Mother Earth. We heard a participant read the famous poem “In Flanders Field,” written by John McCrae, one of the more than 15 million people who lost their lives in WWI. We learned the distinction between red poppies and white poppies: red poppies commemorate soldiers who die in war while white poppies commemorate all people, including civilians, killed in war. And we heard veterans express that, while we should remember those who are casualties of war, the most appropriate manner to honor them is to work tirelessly to end all current wars and prevent any future wars. At 11:00am on the 11th day of the 11th month, church bells rang out in remembrance and renewal of the idea of the end of war and militarism.


The campaign to Reclaim Armistice Day serves as a guiding light for our combined efforts throughout the year to end the reliance on war and militarism as a means of conflict resolution, to counter the culture of militarism, and to raise awareness and focus action on the fact that it is no longer a question of nonviolence or violence. Rather, the choice is nonviolence or nonexistence.


Given the ongoing horrors of war, it is finally time to remember Julia Ward Howe’s words about sons unlearning love and being steeped in violence and killing. Mother’s Day was originally an antiwar message. Following the carnage of the American Civil War, the poet, abolitionist, and suffragist Howe penned her Mother’s Day Proclamation in 1870 as an appeal to mothers to spare their sons and the sons of others from the depredations of war. The Mother’s Day Proclamation was partly a lament for the useless deaths and partly a call to action to stop future wars.


We invite everyone to join us throughout the year to demand peace and justice, at home and abroad. We encourage all readers to offer their thoughts on how to press our government to end reckless military interventions abroad that endanger the entire world; to identify and actively oppose all domestic applications of this militarism, whether it be the dangerous militarization of our borders and municipal police departments or the continual assault upon and colonialization of our Indigenous neighbors. We must counter the culture of violence and militarism impressed upon us by the pernicious military-industrial-corporate-government-education – and all-consuming – complex.

Ron VanNorstrand is a member of the Syracuse Peace Council, the Beyond War & Militarism committee and a member of the local chapter of Veterans for Peace.


*See copy of Armistice Day Proclamation signed by Mayor Walsh  enclosed in this PNL issue (subscribers) or at