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.