Official Disclaimer: This take is mine and mine alone.
Today is a national commemoration once called Armistice Day: The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. In its terrible last nine months, 10,000 Americans were dying every month so that this would be the War to End War.
As Julia Ward Howe declared in The Battle Hymn of the Republic:
In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free ...
In our sacred wars Americans sacrificed to redeem humanity and renew the nation. As Lincoln taught us:
... that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom
In the sacrifice then the nation might be renewed -- in blood reborn. But this was the blood of an entire young generation of men, so that the whole nation was in a sense sacrificing too. Even the leaders sacrificed themselves in these holy wars: Lincoln at the moment of reunion, Wilson at the failure to realize redemption with the League of Nations, and FDR at the final slaying of Nazi evil.
In our civil war and two world wars the nation, its armies, and its leader were emotionally and symbolically united: They were one in purpose and in spirit.
So days like today used to be about reconsecrating sacred acts of sacrifice and renewal. Yet what we see now could stand in no starker contrast.
Now, just a tiny sliver of Americans volunteer for military service. Ordinary Americans know little of what our legionnaires do in war. The People's elected representative -- known as Congress -- long ago abdicated any say in whether or not this nation goes to war. Custom has thus permanently amended the US Constitution. The decision to go to war is the Leader's alone, as it was in long ago Imperial Germany or Japan.
So our men and women in combat fight the elective wars of our government's executive branch. Its war-prerogative is jealously guarded, so that soldiers' sacrifice, rather than cause for national commemoration, is politically inconvenient. There is no incentive for the state to bring the nation together in active remembrance, or in any way rekindle in sacred rites forgotten political rights.
Yet the state is finding a better way to make war. During the past decade, unmanned vehicles of all sorts, but especially flying drones, have been replacing living American soldiers and airmen. These robot warriors -- really a form of spirit possession by human pilots often 10,000 miles away -- are increasingly taking the fight to the enemy. They are fighting for us.
Years' hence our robots, perhaps as autonomous, sentient beings, and our new "volunteers," may become our nation's representative -- or better yet, the state's instrument -- in battle. So years' hence, when we come around to future Veterans Days, will we commemorate those American robots whose heroic termination was made for us? Will we reconsecrate the "hallowed ground" where they gave "the last measure of devotion" -- and where we experienced a "rebirth of freedom" from their sacrifice of sacred rare earth metals?
Who then shall mourn our drones?
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