Beta Culture: Beyond Veterans Day

Salt Day copyI confess to mixed feelings about November 11.

I have a number of fairly conservative friends, and you can count on Veterans Day to kick off a massed booming v0lley of flag-wavery — heartfelt prayers, cheers, and best wishes for the men and women in uniform, those gallant, selfless warriors willing to give their lives for our freedom.

I can never join in with such fervent abandon. I mean, I GET Veterans Day. But still, considering some of the things the U.S. military has done … mixed feelings.

I also have this thing about calling anyone wearing a uniform as a “hero.” My definition of hero is apparently somewhat different from the average American. Here’s a hero:

11-year-old boy pushed sister out of way before being struck, killed by car

La’Darious Wylie was waiting at the school bus stop with his little sister, Sha’Vonta, on Oct. 27 when a car came careening toward them.

That’s when La’Darious pushed his sister out of the way.

She was fine. He died. Here’s this ordinary kid doing something extraordinary. Saving the life of his little sister. Losing his own life in pursuit of it. THAT’s a hero. Not just somebody who wears a uniform. Just my opinion, but …

Cops are not heroes until …
Firemen are not heroes until …
Soldiers are not heroes until …


I honor the willingness of these people to put themselves in a position of danger. They’re still not automatically heroes.

For many years, I’ve made an effort to interject this point into the flag-waving on Nov. 11: There are plenty of OTHER people responsible for American freedoms and way of life — farmers, mathematicians, suffragettes, civil rights activists, philosophers, writers. Hell, doctors. Plumbers and electricians. Sanitation workers.

[I’ve suggested more than once that a Conscience Memorial would be a perfect addition to the National Mall in Washington DC.  As I’ve said elsewhere, there are scores of huge monuments to war and death in Washington, but not one single memorial to conscience or whistle-blowing or principled resistance. We have difficulty even recognizing that conscience and resistance is heroic, or that it can be braver in some ways than following along with the killing and dying.]

I guess when you get right down to it, I consider Veterans Day justified, but … incomplete. I have no problem with Veterans having their special day, or the rest of us celebrating it. (I do sort of wonder why there also has to be Memorial Day, which is essentially the same holiday.) The problem I have is all those others who deserve a day of recognition but don’t get it.

We have Mothers Day, and that’s fine. We have Fathers Day, and that’s fine (despite the legions of twits who leap in and tearfully demand equal time for single mothers, as if honoring fathers for one day out of the year is somehow an attack on poor neglected single mothers).

I’ve had in mind for all the time I’ve been thinking about Beta Culture that there would be special holidays or occasions indigenous to Beta. Of course the final roll of holidays would be crowd-sourced, but I’ve thought of several I’d toss into the hat.

For instance, Memory Day (NOT Memorial Day) could be one of them — a day to remember and honor departed friends, relatives, loved ones, and beloved pets. We’d get together and share stories, show pictures, or just smile and quietly enjoy refreshing our own warm memories.

But another cultural holiday, something of a counterpoint to Veterans Day (and held in a completely different part of the year — how about a half year later, on May 11?), is a day to honor some of those OTHERS who sacrificed and gave and lived and died to lay the foundations of the modern world. I call it SALT Day.





‘S’ honors all those who did and do science, not just the cutting-edge research, but everything short of it. Every tiny bit of modern civilization, we owe, on some level, to scientists.

‘A’ takes in visual artists, musicians, movie-makers, sculptors, dancers, novelists — every person in any field of art. They make life worth living and celebrating.

‘L’ is for librarians. I consider books one of the best things ever invented, libraries one of the cheapest and best things civilization has to offer, and those sterling beings who collect and catalog and treasure all those books in all those libraries to be the true shepherds of civilization.

‘T’ is for teachers, and I doubt I could ever say enough good stuff about them. Teaching is one of the noblest professions on Earth, and every one of us save the utterly ignorant owes a massive debt of gratitude to teachers … which never arrives. So why not include them in a cultural holiday?

Of course there are other people who deserve honors. But these, to me, are some of the most profound and worthy.

SALT Day would be a day to honor, to give gifts, to send cards, to call, to visit, to REMEMBER some of the non-military movers and shakers (pun intended) of civilization.



  • Jenny

    Thanks for this post. I too have mixed feelings about the holiday. I feel bad for say nothing, but at the same time I feel disingenuous wishing people a happy veteran’s day for the same reasons you mentioned.

  • Dorothy Grasett


  • Stevie D

    Great post, Hank. Supported from across the pond; where the press, politicians and social media are going wild about the Parisian bombings, whilst totally ignoring the Beirut atrocities from the day before.