It is Memorial Day, but…

I am reaching my limits with the military-worship in this culture.

There are people I would thank for their service; there are also people I would not, because I don’t think their “service” was motivated by a patriotism I can respect, or any notion of service.

When I am confronted with people who were in the military, who take the position that their service entitles them to question other’s patriotism — I do not respect their service.

When I am confronted with people who were in the military, who take the position that no one outside the military can understand/explain/say anything useful about the military — I do not respect their service.

When I am confronted with people who were in the military, who take positions directly opposite the Constitution they swore to uphold — I do not respect their service.

Mostly, I don’t respect it because I don’t believe it was “service”. I think it came from other motives, and some of those are motives I might respect — but many are not. And even if it began as “service”, it has clearly turned into something else; the sort of thing that people fear when it comes to standing armies, and military takeovers — military exceptionalism.

And if you wave your military service around as a way to say “I’m better than you are”, then you can take your “service” and stuff it — because you have clearly not understood how democracy and a volunteer army are supposed to work.  If you are a soldier more than you are a citizen, and feel that being a soldier is more important than being a citizen, you have failed at being a citizen.

A second part of this is that we, as a society, are doing a terrible job of taking care of our actual veterans, as opposed to the ones in TV ads.  If we are going to set up shrines, let us set them up where they can do good — where there are homeless veterans, where there are vets with PTSD, vets who can’t get health care.

I wonder how many lunches for homeless vets could have been bought by the ads I saw watching tonight’s basketball game.

I will never forget the lesson my grandfather taught me; he’s the relative I have and knew best who served in a war. (He was a medical officer during WWII.)

He had me name each and every one of my toy soldiers, so if any of them died in a battle, it wasn’t just “the guy with the Bren gun”, but “Finch”.

He also made me do it for the Germans, so it wasn’t just “The guy with the MG42”, it was “Aschler” — my German names weren’t as clear back then.

I learned a lot from him, and thank him for what he did. But I also know that he was special in what he did, and that a blanket thanks is not useful, nor helpful, nor, really, fair.

Thank the veterans who deserve it. Many, indeed perhaps most, do; but the bad apples in their midst?

No, thank you.


2 thoughts on “It is Memorial Day, but…

  1. Funny how the people I know who fought in WWII – a real war, a war that involved defending your home and nearest and dearest – are in no hurry to talk about it. Goes double for the few I knew in my youth who were in the Great War. My grandad was certainly proud of his service in the Alpine Corps, and as we found out after his death he had reasons to be, but he never worshipped the military per se. Neither did my uncle who ended up in a German interment camp, nor my other uncle who fought with the partisans. None of them were in a hurry to talk about it.
    Of course, if you are sent to a foreign land to kill random people for no good reason, and to be killed or maimed or see your comrades killed or maimed, then you have to believe that it was all for a superior cause that other people can’t possibly understand, because the alternative would be unbearable. And of course my relatives who fought fought in a time of general mobilisation, when the Army was not something special but everybody – everybody male and of fighting age, but in the case of the Resistance, pretty much everybody everybody, including women, children and old people.


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