By Bill Bradberry
Niagara Gazette — As we approach Veterans Day, ironically only a few days after yesterday’s election, this might be a good time to stop and think for a moment about some of the principles that our military veterans fought, and many died for, based in part upon the concepts of allegiance and loyalty, and how those very same ideals also apply in peacetime at home, even at the local level where disputes and disagreements are settled through elections instead of wars.
Pledging our allegiance every school day morning as young students, we repeat those 31 rote memorized words which had been carefully crafted in August 1892 by the socialist minister Francis Bellamy (1855-1931) who hailed from tiny Mount Morris, a scant 60 miles east of Niagara Falls.
“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
Most of us, not really knowing or caring what they meant, what they stand for, and as kids, barely able to pronounce them let alone comprehend their deeper meanings, probably thought that with those words, we were honoring the flag, not the ideals that it stands for; that part of our education would come later for most, never for some.
But for everyone who enters the military knows, that word allegiance comes up again in the Oath of Enlistment; it is something that every service member must promise and adhere to for his/her entire military career, to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic”; and to, “bear true faith and allegiance to the same.”
The idea of honoring our military veterans with a special day evolved beginning with the end of World War I, known at the time as “The Great War” which officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, in the Palace of Versailles outside the town of Versailles, France.
However, fighting had actually ceased seven months earlier when an armistice or temporary cessation of hostilities, between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, so November 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of “the war to end all wars.”
On June 1, 1954, President Eisenhower sign legislation changing the name of the legal holiday from Armistice Day to Veteran’s Day and after a series of efforts in the Congress and amongst the states, November 11 was finally established as Veterans Day effective in 1978 instead of on the fourth Monday in October, thereby confusing just about everybody for the next few decades about when to celebrate.
Veterans Day continues to be observed on Nov. 11, regardless of what day of the week on which it falls. The restoration of the observance of Veterans Day to Nov. 11 not only preserves the historical significance of the date, but helps focus attention on the important purpose of Veterans Day: A celebration to honor America’s veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.”
Often overlooked during the celebrations is the term, “common good” which brings me to the connection between Veterans Day and elections.
Aside from war, which is usually the sad result of diplomatic failure when reason falls to force, most agree that nobody really wins much when everyone is constantly pushing and pulling in different directions to everyone’s ultimate demise.
I often quote my father’s parody of the farm workers who, having worked in the blazing heat all day to harvest their crops, spent more time and energy arguing about how to get their bounty to the market than they did in the fields.
They could not agree on whether they should push or pull the wagon, and in the heat of their discord, they tugged so hard in opposite directions, that they tore the wagon apart, wasting the crops as well as their labor.
“It would have been better,” he’d smile and chide, “had they moved together in the same direction, some pushing, some pulling, agreeing to disagree along the way.”
The same could be true in local politics based upon constructive, responsible and respectful disagreement bounded by loyalty to fundamental interests and principles. Well informed legislative debate and can become genuine “loyal opposition.”
The phrase, derived from John Hobhouse’s 1826 debate in the British parliament of the term, “His Majesty’s Loyal Opposition” was intended to demonstrate that Members of Parliament may oppose the policies of the incumbent government while maintaining deference to the larger framework within which democracy operates. The concept thus permits the dissent necessary for a functioning democracy without fear of being accused of crimes and high treason, terms which are not unheard of during the recent Washington as well as local political campaign banter.
In his, “The Principle of Loyal Opposition” author Jeremy Waldron, New York University School of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 12-221 (Dec. 9, 2011) wrote:
“The Principle of Loyal Opposition is key to the way in which modern democracies organize themselves. It is bound up with the existence of political parties ... with the significance of reasonable disagreement in politics ... and should rather convey a sense that, as far as possible, opposition parties are always to be regarded as loyal, no matter what policies or constitutional changes they favor.”
What we are seeing lately is far too much destructive outrage, piss, and vinegar, turning otherwise good people into blind demolition experts, ineffective, humorless, angry opponents of progress or anyone and anything that they do not like instead of bright challengers with better ideas.
So, congratulations to yesterday’s winners, condolences to the rest; this election cycle now over, its time for everyone, including the Loyal Opposition to get down to the more difficult work ... governing in the best interests of all of the people, not just those who elected you, but everyone.
Happy Veterans Day!
Contact Bill Bradberry at email@example.comContact Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org