Thursday, November 11, 2010
If You are a US Citizen Thank a Veteran
I hate starting off this post referring to myself but I hope doing so will provide some context.
When I was a teen I was not only anti war (which for the record I still am) but was also anti military. Gandhi was & remains my hero and I felt anyone who participated in the armed forces was a threat to peace. My cousin was in the National Guard then (and still) and though I respected him I just felt he was wrong to be in the military. Desert Storm was in full swing then and I spoke out against it in front of TV news cameras telling the community I worried for my cousin and all soldiers and that I was against war for oil.
Years later I was in a social studies class where I learned about military spending and waste. Again I found myself disgusted with our institution for defense and vowed (for like a day) to never even speak to anyone who could ever serve in any military. I reasoned that it was bad enough to learn to kill innocents, but on top of that my tax dollars were going to fund expensive non-essentials and fancy lunches for high ranking soldiers. I began to have hate for anything associated with our armed forces and my big mouth certainly ensured that when the topic came up, folks knew how I felt.
As I got older I mellowed out a little but remained in a more quiet way against any and all military until I heard this wonderful and thought provoking essay by Aileen Mory. She said:
"If every parent does not have to fear losing a son or daughter — if every politician does not have to face that fear in his constituents — decisions to go to war will continue to be too easy."
That was a slap to my liberal leaning yet patriotic brain. How easy was it for me to be against something that hardly touched me except for when I thought of my cousin, the only member of the family to enlist in recent memory. My connection to the wars in my lifetime was through theory and very occasional concern when my cousin was overseas. How could I ever grasp what having a military institution did for a country when, as a female US citizen, I never had the option to never concern myself with participating in it? Was it possible there was room to be against military waste & mindless killing, but for there to be a way to protect citizens from violence perpetuated by others in and out of the United States? The answer was yes.
Life is not nor ever will be black or white. The either/or mentality is at best simple minded and closed, at worst deadly. It is possible to want something but still make sure that thing is being clear and accountable. The world of theory & imagination on the parts of both liberals and conservatives don't serve anyone in the long run. Some conservatives believe that making money off war is okay and don't really pause to realize the suffering and waste that come from an unchecked institution. Some liberals think we need no military whatsoever and don't account for the very real threats that may occur.
Today I not only support the draft but I also feel that mandatory military service for all citizens that are able, should be required. Before anyone gets all indignant let me say first off that I don't believe all citizens ought to go to war. We need troops that are well trained and have an interest, should we be in conflict, so only those folks would fight. It is also worth noting over half the world has conscription and not every citizen likes it but these citizens have a much better understanding of their countries defense and an ability to use basic defense tactics should they ever be attacked.
We North Americans have it good. We get to have all kinds of thoughts & feelings about our military without having to connect to it in a very real way, except for those who have family and friends who enlist. I know if I had a child, parent or spouse that had to fight or even go away for a year or two to learn defense, my opinion about the wars our country got into would be even stronger and actions to stop senseless wars greater. Our senators, congress members and government would not make decisions about going into a conflict without considering the lives of their loved ones in a very real way.
Today I give thanks for our voluntary army. These folks are brave and are doing what most of our country's citizens are too afraid and too removed to do, care about the safety of this country. These folks are not compensated enough for doing a job that needs to be done. Our soldiers come home to find their basic needs like access to proper medical care and housing are sometimes lacking or even denied. Even if one hates the military, the denial of human rights for our bravest is wrong. If our citizens were more involved in military service we could have a greater voice in military spending so that more soldiers get their needs met during and after conflict.
My opinions on this topic are still evolving and I reserve the right to be wrong as I am hardly touched by war. So agree with me or not, but before we make sweeping proclamations about our military, lets be grateful that today, even if we don't choose to fight or get involved in military service, we are lucky to have those that are willing to die so we can make those proclamations.