Thursday, November 11, 2004

Veterans Day Out, Not Off

Today is Veterans Day and I hadn't realized it. And I should well know this day as I have served in the military, I'm one of those that this day commemorates. Yet, I didn't notice the day and tried to go to the bank, closed. When I returned, no mail. Of course government offices would have been closed.

But the rest of American society runs on unimpeded by nary a thought toward those who wore the uniforms of our armed services. I can understand why government workers get the day off, many toil in obsurity to provide us with needed services, but banks workers? I'm not sure of the relationship.

Commercial America works on, I have to show up for work tonight. My corporation doesn't give a wit about whether I served my country. I won't even get a tip of the hat, a word of acknowledgement, a quick thanks, or even a longer break. My service and so mnay other American's service will be absolutely ignored by corporate America. Besides government workers only bank workers get any feeling that this day is important and many of them aren't even veterans.

I don't understand this lack of respect for veterans from corporations and the business world. Without veterans fighting for American freedom, corporate behemoths might not even exist. But they won't close or operate with less workers by giving veterans the day off. Nope, the all mighty dollar is just too important to chase after to slow our commercialism down.

When I was stationed in Germany I was struck by how many holidays and days off German workers had. It sometimes seemed like a weekly day off, at least to an American who knew back home that special work days off were so infrequent. They even commemorate today, the end of World War I. They have a special name for it, I can't recall it, but they well know of the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month as what we originally called Armistice Day.

Woodrow Wilson originally signed into law that today we would remember the veterans of World War I. In 1937 the day was expanded to include all that had served in the military whether in peacetime or war. Later for a time it was placed on the second Monday in November, but it returned to the 11th day of November no matter what day of the week it fell on.

In the last few years we've been hearing alot of vague talk about patriotism. People use the word but don't really seem to understand it or put it into practice. I suppose flying an American flag is expressing patriotism. But I wonder at the lack of patriotism expressed by corporate America towards veterans on this day shouldn't be more deeply considered.

It seems as if commercial banks can slow the flow of money all across the country on this day, why is it not possible to slow the flow of retail and manufacturing? Maybe the business world has been taking their cues from the leaders of this country when they don't really want us to have an extra day off. I can remember after 9/11 President Bush didn't ask us to sacrifice anything, in fact he asked us to continue to shop. It might not have been a bad idea to call for a national day of mourning a week or two afterwards, complete with time away from the job.

To me patriotism and corporatism don't really go together anymore. Americans work more days than any other country in the capitalist world. We work longer hours as well. Even holidays are now becoming regular work days. My company, a retail corporate bakery, is experimenting this year with opening on Thanksgiving and Christmas at select locations, the only two special days off we have. So I imagine getting Veterans Day off is fairly low on their agenda. Memorial Day, Labor Day, Easter, no day stands in their way of making a buck, despite the fact that these days tend to be very low business.

I guess we can continue to erode our culture by making no day important unless it is to sell something. We see how business gears up for special days to sell even more stuff. Halloween is becoming a big sales holiday, starting to compete with days like Independence Day and Easter. We even have made-up days, like Sweetest Day, in order to sell more stuff like flowers, candy and greeting cards. Along with increased sales we also get increased stress. We end up working more hours in order to be able to afford more things to give away which we have mostly stopped putting much effort into the gift except to run to the local mall, thus we have less time to put some effort into the gift.

I'm all for holidays, but we need the time off to enjoy them, to reflect on them. How many Americans will really care that today is Veterans Day? What kind of thanks will veterans really get today? Personally, I would like the day off, but I won't get that. Heck, I'm tired, I work hard in my current job as I did when I was in the Army. Why has our society arrived at the point that business can't say "take a day off, it's for you" on a day like today?


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