Ring in Peace on Armistice Day, Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Bell and dovesAlaska Peace Center and Veterans For Peace North Star Chapter 146 invite everyone to ring bells at 11:00 at Veteran’s Memorial Park, 700 Cushman Street in Fairbanks, in celebration of Armistice Day. Bring a bell if you have one (we’ll have extras if you don’t), in any case bring a friend. Masks and social distancing recommended.

Bell-ringing has been a traditional way of celebrating Armistice Day ever since the end of World War One (known at the time as “The Great War”) 102 years ago. It signifies the relief and joy felt around the world when the armistice was signed on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. Bells were rung to celebrate peace and the end of four years of war that killed or wounded more than 30 million people. In the wake of so much carnage, it was then clear to millions of people that wars were not about valor or romantic ideals, but about empire, which benefits a few at the expense of many. A tradition of observing the anniversary of the armistice by ringing bells to honor veterans and promote peace spread throughout the world.

Armistice Day became a legal holiday nationwide by an act of Congress in 1938, dedicated to the cause of world peace. In 1954 President Eisenhower changed Armistice Day to Veterans Day by presidential proclamation, admonishing us to “reconsecrate ourselves to the task of promoting an enduring peace so that their efforts shall not have been in vain.” However, in contrast to Eisenhower’s intention, rebranding Armistice Day as Veterans Day has led to a change from celebrating peace to celebrating the military and glorifying war. Armistice Day has been flipped from a day for peace into a day for displays of militarism.

The Alaska Peace Center, along with Veterans For Peace nationally and locally, celebrates the original intent of November 11th – as a day for peace. Peace, not war, is the best way to honor the sacrifices of veterans. We want generations after us to never know the destruction war has wrought on people and the earth.

For more reflections on the significance of Armistice Day see essays by Rory Fanning and Skip Oliver.

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