I Just Don’t Know

Joseph Ambrose, an 86-year-old World War I vet...

Joseph Ambrose, an 86-year-old World War I veteran, attends the dedication day parade for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in 1982. He is holding the flag that covered the casket of his son, who was killed in the Korean War (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The day is almost over and I haven’t written anything for Veterans Day yet. Part of that is because I had a busy, long day at work, but a bigger part is I struggle with this, and any other military-centric holiday. I hope you understand that when I use the word “struggle” I mean just that, because it brings up so many conflicting issues and ideas for me, and so many conflicting emotions.

I just want to get this out of the way quickly, because I know some of you may think I am naive, but I am not. I know we need a military. As long as there are more than a handful of nations in the world, not to mention extra governmental groups, there will always be at least one that is willing to resort to force meaning the rest have to be ready to meet that force. For those on the other side of the argument, yes, I agree, or corporate leaders and elected employees often put us in the position of being that one willing to use force first.

I am also very aware of the sacrifices those called to serve make. I am not just talking about the obvious ones. Yes, service members risk life and limb, but that is small change when you consider they do so offering up the freedoms so many of us take for granted. You don’t, nor should you considering the awesome potential for abuse of power, have the same rights once you have sworn that oath and put on that uniform. Add to that the burden put on your family life and you get an idea how much these folks give up.

That said, the mindless hero-worship that our culture heaps on these folks is unhealthy. It is unhealthy for them, when we project these unrealistic expectations on them, but it is also unhealthy for us a society. It opens us up to real fascism (not just the pretend kind that Democratic or Republican faithful like to accuse each other of.) It creates the very frightening prospect of the politicization of the military. It primes us for military adventurism, making us willing to throw our young into a meat grinder or to lob high explosives at several times the speed of sound at innocent bystanders around the world.

It also distracts us. The pomp around our military holidays numbs us to the myriad failures of our culture. The racism, classism, sexism and all the other oppressive “isms” are hidden in a red, white, and blue smoke screen and we pat ourselves on the pack for noticing the pretty colors. We sing the praises of our armed forces drowning out the voices of the neglected and abused in our society. We create an image in our head of military spending being the only worthwhile use of tax dollars, taking bread from the mouths of (yes) working poor families.

These folks do deserve a little of our respect though. As I said before, they do sacrifice, and they do take a bigger risk than most of us. In putting on that uniform they are accepting life as a “legitimate” target. You may think that is foolhardy, macho, or foolish, but you cannot get around the fact that it does, in some small way, make you just a tiny bit safer.

I won’t pretend to have any answers. It is eleven-thirty on the East Coast now, and maybe my head is too full of cotton to figure it out. That, or maybe I am right to think it is too complicated to claim an easy answer. Maybe we all need to realize there is good and bad in our country, and those the institutions that protect it. Maybe the blindly patriotic need to open their eyes, while the anti-military crowd need to open their minds. I just don’t know, and maybe I never will.

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2 thoughts on “I Just Don’t Know

  1. On the nose! I do believe in recognizing our military service personal on Nov. 11. But….what does bother me about this day is that while, yes, we should honor our veterans I also wish people would remember the original intent of 11/11. It was a day of peace and remembrance. A terrible war ended on 11/11/18 at 11 am. We still haven’t learned the lesson of the first Great War.

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