When a great burden is lifted, the relief is not always felt at once. The galled places still ache. The sense of weight persists. And so with Paris. Not at once did the city rejoice openly. It prayed first, and then it counted the sore spots, and they were many. And it was dazed, too. There had been no time to discount peace in advance.
The streets filled at once, but at first it was with a chastened people. Audrey herself felt numb and unreal. She moved mechanically with the shifting crowd, looking overhead as a captured German plane flew by, trying to comprehend the incomprehensible. But by mid-day the sober note of the crowds had risen to a higher pitch. A file of American doughboys, led by a corporal with a tin trumpet and officered by a sergeant with an enormous American cigar, goose-stepped down the Avenue de l’Opera, gaining recruits at every step. It snake-danced madly through the crowd, singing that one lyric stand-by of Young America: “Hail! hail! the gang’s all here!”
But the gang was not all there, and they knew it. Some of them lay in the Argonne, or at Chateau-Thierry, and for them peace had come too late.
— Mary Roberts Rinehart, Dangerous Days
A hundred years, a lifetime, and just a moment ago:
What did Armistice Day 1918 look like?
These clips from IWM’s Film Archive show people gathered in the Charing Cross area of London to celebrate the end of the war and Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, met by cheering crowds. #ArmisticeDay100
Film Number: IWM 505 & 664a pic.twitter.com/TnEllnfNbz
— Imperial War Museums (@I_W_M) November 11, 2018
And of course our president screwed it up, and can’t comprehend, because he wasn’t elected to be a world leader, and there’s nothing about honoring the dead of a long-ago war that involves yelling about locking up Hillary, so he’s not into it.
Then again, the U.S. was late to this war and has never been able to reckon with its impact on countries still tilling fields full of iron, unexploded ordnance everywhere you look. What if this was your grandfather, your great-grandfather, his friends?
What might they pass down to you, from that, if they lived? What might the place where they were born pass down to you, if you stayed there? Not a man in that town older than 16 or younger than 60, what would that mean, a century on? There is still barbed wire in Verdun. The people are dust and ashes and the bombs are still killing.
Trump can’t comprehend but be fair, we can’t either. Things that happened in my lifetime are treated like fairytales. The people who came back from the Somme lived to see Hitler and some of the people who saw Hitler have lived to see Nazism again.
This was all just a moment ago. We remember these things not to feel bad about ourselves or bum our kids out or even to stoke patriotic fires. We remember the last war so we can survive the next one, because the guns are never silent, not for long. And the faster we forget how they sounded, the more eager we are to fire them again.