Ninety-nine years ago, at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, bells tolled around the world, and people poured into public squares to celebrate the end of what was called The War to End All Wars. For many years, Armistice Day was observed as a day to remember the dead of WWI and rededicate ourselves to never letting war happen again.
This week, aided by a grant from the N.C. Humanities Council, a bell has been tolling from the 24-foot-tall Swords to Plowshares Memorial Belltower, a touring memorial that has been erected, for the fourth consecutive year, on the lawn of our State Capitol in Raleigh. The public has been adding inscriptions to the monument to bear witness to how war has affected their lives. These silver plaques, fashioned from recycled cans and glistening in the wind, bear heart-rending inscriptions in many different languages.
The Belltower was dedicated on Memorial Day 2014 by the Eisenhower Chapter of Veterans for Peace with former N.C. State University alumni director and Air Force veteran Bob Kennel presiding. Its inspiration was the bronze door on the NCSU Belltower, which bears the inscription And They Shall Beat Their Swords into Plowshares. This Old Testament passage, sacred to Jews, Christians, Muslims and others, is a reminder of the original spirit of Armistice Day.
In 1953, President Eisenhower said, Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. But one year later, he signed a proclamation renaming Armistice Day as Veterans Day. Since WWI, with the days original intent forgotten, we have seen the rise of fascism in Europe, the horr...