November 11 is my birthday. As a kid, I used to think it was cool that people would put flags out on my birthday. In that self-centered, woefully uninformed, way that kids view the world, I’d mistakenly thought people were putting them out for me.
By the time I was six or seven, though, I knew it wasn’t about me. In fact, over the years, my understanding of the significance of this day has gone through several rounds of evolution. The latest occurred in November of 1997. My wife and I were on vacation in London. As we stepped off the elevator and into the lobby that morning, we noticed a large number of people wearing poppies. It was then that I fully understood how significant this day is outside of the US.
Part of the evolution of my own understanding has to do with how the observance of November 11 has morphed in the US. It wasn’t always about veterans.
At 5:00 AM on the Monday morning of November 11, 1918, in the poppy fields near Compiègne, France, the Allies and Germans signed the order that brought World War I, what was then known as the war to end all wars, to an end. The cease fire on the western front went into effect at 11:00 AM that day–the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.
In 1938, Congress passed a law, and from then until May of 1954, 11 November was known as Armistice Day. In May of 1954, Congress passed another law that transformed the observance into a tribute to the veterans of all wars.
In Commonwealth nations, it’s now known as Remembrance Day, and has taken on a similar meaning. The poppies that people wear in their lapels harkens back to that day in 1918, and comes from Lt. Col. John McCrae’s poem In Flanders’ Fields.
So, my appreciation for 11 November has evolved in a direction opposite of how our observance of 11 November has evolved. I now see how it involves a dedication to peace as well as a remembrance of people who’ve lost their lives in wars. After all, the significance of the day is that it marks the end of a war.
None of this, however, has anything to do with why I’m posting this today. The reason is, well, rather odd. Here I was, working away in my office with some of these thoughts revolving rather disjointedly in my head when my “Random Least-Recently-Played” iTunes play list hit Sting’s Children’s Crusade.
Currently playing in iTunes: Children’s Crusade by Sting