News From Terre Haute, Indiana

April 14, 2014

LIZ CIANCONE: Not much peace since war to end all wars

Liz Ciancone
Special to the Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — My jaw dropped the other day when I read that this year, 2014, marks 100 years since the start of World War I. No, you wise guys, I wasn’t there personally.

You may remember that WWI was the “war to end all wars,” or if you missed that in history class, surely you remember how we used to observe 60 seconds of silence at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11 of every year, the date and time of the armistice officially ending the hostilities.

Once, some years ago, Mom and I were doing some early Christmas shopping in Chicago on that date. Promptly at 11 a.m. everything and everyone in the store grew silent. Peace meant more to Mom than it did to me that day; she had lived through the war and Dad had served in the Navy. Suddenly, both felt safer. Peace and quiet truly is a wonderful thing.

War was followed by the Great Depression. Unemployment soared to above 50 percent, and there was no such thing as a “social program” to feed the masses. There were marches on Washington and a real fear that Americans would turn on each other in a revolution. Then programs were developed to provide employment with the federal government paying the wages. Men were hired to rebuild what is known as “our infrastructure” —roads, bridges and sidewalks — and improving facilities in our state and national parks. Artists were employed to paint murals in our federal buildings and writers to document our history.

Sadly, it took another war to truly end the Depression and return to near-full employment. World War II, terrible as it was, wasn’t the end of all wars either. Next came the Korean War, but it wasn’t called a war; it was known as a “police action.” The trouble with that action is that young men were getting killed just as surely as if war had been declared.

Since then we have been embroiled in Vietnam, the Gulf War, Iraq, Afghanistan and whatever murderous activity terrorists devise. In almost every event since the end of the war to end all wars, nearly every male member of my family has been called upon to defend our country.

Except for those few blissful years between 1918 and 1941, there has been no real peace in the world. Our young men, and now our young women as well, continue to be asked to put their lives on the line.

I hope I live long enough to savor a few more blissful, peaceful years.

Liz Ciancone is a retired Tribune-Star reporter. Send email to opinion@tribstar.com.