Thursday, November 10, 2011

Veterans Day 11.11.11

I've written here in the past about Veterans Day, lamenting that the holiday seems to have lost its significance for most Americans. Perhaps this year will be different due to the fortuitous symmetry of the date on which it falls.

11.11.11, can you imagine a more appropriate date for the holiday that was originally established as Armistice Day to mark the cease-fire that brought to an end the first world war, the "war to end all wars". That armistice was signed on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918, so 11.11.11 already has special significance for the meaning of the day.

People seem to love a date that can be expressed in terms of a single repeated digit and (correct me if I am wrong) this is the only one where the digit is repeated six times. 11.11.11 only comes around once every 100 years and this is the first occasion for it to be Veterans Day. The reason I think this same-digit palindromic date might make this Veterans Day special, other than pure superstition, is that the media love to make a big deal about stuff like that. And if the media talk it up people will pay attention - and maybe they'll pause for just a moment to remember what all the hoopla is supposed to be about: remembering and honoring our country's armed service members and veterans.

11.11.11 - the date is being hyped for all kinds of reasons, from commercial exploitation to predictions of supernatural events (really, I googled it) so if some of the hype results in increased attention to Veterans Day 2011, I am all for it.

So on 11.11.11 (at 11:11 AM, if you are a real fanatic about digits), do something to say "thank you" to our nation's service members (and their families, who also sacrifice) and veterans. Fly the Stars and Stripes, go to a parade, give blood (perfect for any occasion), hug someone in uniform, donate your time, services or money to any one of dozens of organizations that support the cause (head over to my web site Dirigonzo Speaks for suggestions), or just take a minute to reflect on the sacrifices large and small that these men and women made so that you and I can live in freedom. It's obvious what they have done for us, so the question is what are we going to do for them? A little show of appreciation on the one day a year set apart in their honor doesn't seem like a lot to ask.

Take care of it in the morning and you'll still have all afternoon to shop. Happy Veterans Day.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The comics as an impetus for social action

"Pearls Before Swine" by Stephan Pastis was picked up by my local paper only recently and it has become one of my favorite comic strips. Pastis uses an unlikely menagerie as spokes-animals for his commentary on a variety of social and political issues. Rat and Goat are featured in the strip that appears above but others include Pig (and Pigita), crocodiles, zebras, and sometimes Pastis himself.

Today's strip caught my fancy because as a nascent blogger I can identify with Goat's frustration at learning that the only recognition that his blog garners is that it "sounds pretty boring". I mention this only because it got me thinking about earlier strips in the series, and I think I have had a revelation involving a current hot topic in current events: I'm pretty sure that Stephan Pastis is the creator of the "Occupy Wall Street" movement. Seriously.

A few months ago "Pearls Before Swine" featured a story line that highlighted the economic divide that separates the "haves" from the "have-nots" (the ninety-nine percent), and culminated with one of the characters (Rat, maybe) calling for an armed rebellion against the powers-that-be. While it was all presented in the context of a comic strip it was impossible to escape the conclusion that Pastis was addressing a serious issue, and that he really felt a rebellion (not necessarily armed) was needed to bring about the necessary change. (The story line ended with Pastis in Federal prison on charges of fomenting insurrection.)

OK, maybe the strip wasn't the sole reason for the OWS movement. but it certainly raised awareness of some of the issues that underlie the movement and suggested a possible means of redress. That didn't come from the news coverage or the op-ed page; the comics provided this bit of socio-political awareness. So that's my point: sometimes to really understand what's going on in the world and what we need to do about it, you don't need to read the news section, you need to read the comics.