icon caret-left icon caret-right instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads question-circle facebook circle twitter circle linkedin circle instagram circle goodreads circle pinterest circle

Doris writes a weekly column for LaGaceta, the nation's only trilingual newspaper, which has pages in English, Spanish, and Italian.  Begun in 1922 for Tampa's immigrant community, it continues to thrive more than a century later.  Her column is titled "In Context," as it aims to put contemporary issues in the context of the past.

Belated Veterans Day

I'm writing this on November 11, which has been Veterans Day since 1954, when Congress renamed it from Armistice Day.  That had marked the end of World War I, when fighting ceased at the 11th hour of the 11th month of 1918.  November 11 also happened to be my father's birthday, and he was due to report to the Army when the armistice was declared. 


There's always been a strong strain of pacifism in my native Minnesota, and his Norwegian grandparents had come to America to farm, not fight.  The same, oddly enough, was true of my mother's German family.  Their various members had left Prussia, Hanover, and other militaristic principalities because they did not want to be conscripted to fight endless, pointless wars.


The ceremony in a railroad car on November 11, 1918, marked merely a ceasefire, not a treaty.  Democratic President Woodrow Wilson proposed a thoughtful treaty and campaigned hard for it in both Europe and America, but the Republican Senate refused to ratify it.  Then as now, partisanship stood in the way of peace, and so Europeans formed the League of Nations in Geneva without American participation. The fact that the war ended with an armistice, not a treaty, gave Hitler an excellent argument that Germany had not really lost, something that greatly encouraged the second war. 


Until it, people referred to the first as "the Great War."  It became World War I with the advent of World War II.  In the same way, Armistice Day became Veterans Day to include the many millions more who served in the second war.  When Congress renamed the date in 1954, the Korean War had just ended, again with a ceasefire and not a treaty.  Seven decades later, that still is the case.  And our Current Occupant flirts with our former enemy, while soldiers of several nations, as well as countless civilians, lie dead.




At the Oklahoma City seminar with high-school teachers that I recently did for the Bill of Rights Institute, someone asked about the effect of World War I on the movement for women's right to vote.  It was huge, splitting the pro-Wilson and anti-Wilson factions of the movement – as well as persuading many congressmen to vote for the vote when women proved their value in war activities.  But after explaining that, I said that the most important thing in teaching that war, especially in teaching world history, is to emphasize that it was a family feud, a fight between Victoria's grandchildren.  I saw the lights go on in the teachers' eyes, as most never had thought about that.


Queen Victoria, the powerful ruler of the British Empire, reigned for a very long time, between 1837 and 1901.  She had German ancestors, and she married a German prince.  Her five daughters were given in marriage to monarchs in Prussia and in the German provinces of Battenberg, Hesse, and Schleswig-Holstein.  By the time Victoria died, seven of her grandchildren held European thrones from Russia to Greece and Spain.


When World War I began just a little more than a decade after her death, her grandchildren lined up against each other and used their subjects out as cannon fodder.  Kaiser Wilhelm (pronounced Vilhelm in German), who was portrayed as very villainous in American propaganda, actually was a cousin of the contemporaneous British King George V.  The war was a huge mistake on the part of the ruling class, as it ended – or at least seriously damaged – aristocracy everywhere. 


Its consequences can be seen most clearly in Russia, where Tsar Nicholas II and his wife Alexandra, one of Victoria's granddaughters, were executed by revolutionaries in 1917.  He had sent soldiers into combat without weapons or other necessities, and longsuffering peasants finally had enough.  The fabled Russian nobility would be no more; Prussia ceased to exist; and Germany never again had a king.  Instead of a war to end all wars, the war ended the assumption that nations needed monarchs. 




You've seen the idiocy of Donald Trump, Jr.'s parallel of his family's "sacrifices" with those of the people who rest in Arlington Cemetery, so I won't add to that.  It is a good time to point out, though, that "sacrifice" comes from the same root as "sacred," something that this not-first family fails to understand.  Probably because the traditional Veterans Day presidential visit to Arlington would remind people of his son's stupid statement, The Donald chose instead to go to a New York parade.  He didn't actually lead the parade; given a lack of golf carts, that would require too much exertion.  By the next Veterans Day, though, I trust no one will invite him.  Maybe that's why he wants to go to Vladimir Putin's parade in May.


It's not just that he leads a clown car of men who lack the discipline and responsibility to actually join the military, but also -- in the words of Jon Soltz, a retired Army officer who served from Kosovo to Iraq -- "Donald Trump is a national security threat."  Soltz heads Vote Vets, which now has some 220,000 members, including us.  Hubby and I marched in Vietnam Veterans Against the War back in the day, and we are pleased to see this continuing critique of hypocritical commanders-in-chief who put self-aggrandizement over the lives of real people.  The parallels between Richard Nixon in the 1960s and Donald Trump today are just eerily true.


Vote Vets is going further than the White House:  its goal is to remove senators who have profited too long from the military/industrial complex.  The organization began its campaign on Veterans Day by flying planes over four states whose Republican senators mindlessly cheer the administration's foreign policy du jour.  The planes carried barriers saying, "Vets:  Trump is a National Security Threat."  The targets were Senators Cory Gardner of Colorado, Martha McSally of Arizona, Tom Tillis of North Carolina, and of course, Moscow Mitch of Kentucky.


You know about Kentucky's recent election and other victories for progressives, but you might not know that the House, under Democrat Nancy Pelosi, has passed 56 bills that directly or indirectly benefit veterans, while the Senate, led by Republican Mitch McConnell, has not taken up one of them.  Next time you see Hubby or another veteran wearing his hat, please don't tritely thank them for their service, but instead inquire about which candidates truly honor national service – whether by soldiers, nurses, teachers, and all of the other low-paid posts that make the world better.




Fifteen years ago, after Vietnam veteran John Kerry lost the 2004 election, Hubby and I co-founded the East Hillsborough Democratic Club.  Many of our Tampa friends thought we were wasting our time, that East Hillsborough was rock-solid Republican.  Indeed, the first people who came to meetings generally believed that they were the only Democrats in the area.  Now, in addition to the mother club, there are clubs for Plant City and South Shore, while newspaper notices for Republican organizations have become scarce.  Younger people have replaced Hubby and me, as we no longer feel the need to pioneer.        


My old friend William March, ever the best local political reporter, confirmed this trend in an article for the Tampa Bay Times on October 17.  Headlined "Where did Hillsborough's Republican Candidates Go?" it pointed out that there are four open countywide races with no declared Republican candidates.  There wasn't any need to include the fact that Tampa City Council has been all-Democratic for a very long time, and that Democrats hold the majority in both the county commission and in the county's constitutional officers. 


This is a true transformation, as at the beginning of our club, Republican leader Sam Rashid swaggered around East Hillsborough, never doubting that things would change.  They did.  He allowed himself to be quoted in October:  "It's a blue county – we have to recognize that.  Any countywide Republican starts off up to seven points behind.  This is no longer the county we turned red in 2000."  Brandon fundraiser Clif Curry said that getting money is tough "because of the perception that the county has turned Democratic."  Longtime consultant April Schiff added another factor – bad behavior in her own party.  She said negative campaigning was so outrageous that decent people weren't willing to run in Republican primaries. 


Such dismay also is being expressed by national leaders who are beginning to see the oncoming Trump train wreck.  A lobbyist for the Republican-leading Chamber of Commerce lamented of the recent elections," We knew it was going to be bad, but not this bad."  He was speaking of Republicans' loss of Kentucky's governorship and Virginia's legislature, but Republicans also had historic losses in suburbs all over the nation.  Pennsylvania's Buck County is just one example:  its local government went Democratic in 2019, after Republicans had won every election since the Civil War.  The times, they are a' changing.



Make a comment to the author