Why I’m Not Thankful
by David Todd McCarty | Thursday, November 12, 2015
I originally began writing this on Veteran’s Day, mostly in response to the flood of nonsense I saw on my Facebook feed. It was just sheep. No thought. Just empty, saccharine gestures.
I didn’t post it out of the respect that I do have for people who have served, or are still serving in the military. It’s an often difficult, thankless job with shitty pay, and very few benefits. I understand why they feel they provide a service to a largely ungrateful nation.
But, and you knew there was going to be a but, I have an issue with the whole thing and I think it’s disingenuous to pretend that I don’t.
The truth is, I have a hard time reconciling my displeasure with how we utilize our armed forces in this country, with the sacrifices of the people who serve.
I don’t believe that the strength of this country is in our military power. I don’t believe that supporting the military is the same as supporting the men and women who serve. I don’t believe that you have to blindly support our military in order to feel patriotic.
I realize I’m not going to win any friends in the military community this line of thought, but here’s my big problem, and I hope you’ll listen with an open mind.
I don’t think the military is fighting for me.
I don’t think the military is “defending the Constitution against enemies foreign and domestic.” I don’t think the military is fighting for American freedom. Frankly, I’m more concerned about our government, both Republicans and Democrats, attacking the constitution, whittling away our freedoms, or straight up selling them to the highest bidder, than of some foreign fighting force.
I believe the United States military exists to impose our government’s political will, largely in the service of multinational corporations that want their assets protected, and in service of the massive military industrial complex. We are the world’s bully and you the taxpayers are funding that terror.
How were the Vietnamese threatening our freedom back in the 60’s? How about Grenada? Libya? Cuba? Panama? Iraq? They were not a threat to our national security. We invaded them!
I think we should have a military strong enough to defend ourselves, but I don’t think we should be the world’s police force.
I think that a ridiculous number of men and women have lost life and limb for less than worthy causes and that is tragic. That is something we should talk about more.
We have a volunteer fighting force and many people join as a way to get out of economic hardships. But I’m not even sure that it even necessarily works out that way. Veterans have a much higher rate of unemployment, not to mention the risk of death, dismemberment and mental illness.
So, I have a hard time thanking them for their service, when I don’t actually believe in the value of their service. I believe in the value of their sacrifice, but not of their service. I recognize that they risk everything by going to war, but they didn’t do it in service of me.
I say don’t join the military. Don’t go to war. You volunteering is what is allowing our government to continue to send you into harm’s way. If they had to draft people and rich people’s kids had to go to, you’d see a lot less military intervention.
I’ve never met a veteran who said they enjoyed war. While in combat, the biggest complaint is probably not even the enemy, but the military. But soldiers enjoy being in the military because of the bond that develops between soldiers under pressure. The pride. The discipline. The camaraderie. This I understand, if at least in theory. I get why it’s attractive. I get being part of something elite.
The problem is, since the founding of this country, for 222 years out of 239, American has been at war. That’s 93% of the time. We’ve just gotten used to it.
We’ve been sold a bill of goods by our government that supporting the military is akin to supporting our country. The military has even taken over the flag. The American Flag is not the flag of the United States military. It is the flag of the people, and every time they wave it while bombing the shit out of some dirt-poor village, I get a little nauseated.
Recently, it was discovered that the defense department has been paying the NFL tens of millions of dollars to glorify the military during pre-game and halftime, on television broadcasts. You think everyone is just uber patriotic and proud of our fighting boys. But they’re being paid, and you’re being snookered. Do you like football? Well, maybe you’d like to join the Marines. Who could be more patriotic than a Marine? Certainly not a citizen. What do they know? You would think that the military ran this country. It doesn’t. The highest ideals of patriotism in America should not be a man in uniform with a gun. That should be our last line of defense.
I respect veterans. I honestly do. It’s a lousy job. It takes incredible bravery, regardless of what I think about their mission. I believe most soldiers are honorable people, even if they do have an abhorrent record of sexual assault in the armed forces. Most people are there for honorable reasons.
But if I’m being honest, I am not thankful for their service. I wish they weren’t part of our military history. I wish they didn’t have to fight unnecessary wars. I wish they weren’t part of an organization that routinely flies to other countries, bombs their cities and kills their citizens.
The military is not securing our peace. It’s threatening it.
The military is not fighting for freedom. It’s imposing our will on others.
The military is not defending the Constitution. It’s supporting a system whereby the rich get richer and the poor suffer.
The military is not acting on my behalf. It’s acting on behalf of corporations and the politicians they own.
On the other hand, until I convince my government to stop going to war every ten years, I must insist that our government care for the veterans that went and fought their wars. Not my wars. Their wars.
Because that’s where my patriotism lies. Take care of the citizens of this country. All of them. And if you see fit to send young men and women into harm’s way, so that you don’t have to do it yourself, you had better be prepared to care for them when they are injured. Completely. No matter what it takes. For as long as it takes.
That is the true cost of freedom.