Some kids were off today and some kids got boring assemblies that gave them the opportunity to miss class. I was the latter. At least that boring assembly got me thinking though and that's why I'm writing this blog post.
For those who don't know, Veteran's Day is for both those both living and dead who have served. It's different than Memorial Day, which honors all who have ever been killed in action. Today is the day when they tell us how grateful we should be for what we have/ how patriotic we should be, talk about our current wars and past wars and "honor the troops".
For our current wars, I'm opposed to them and I'm glad we're in the process of getting out of them. My feelings about the troops themselves, however, are rather complicated. If I were to try to explain them in real life, they would most likely come across in a negative way and that's not my intention at all. I know that I should support them and I do, in a way. Someone has to do what they're doing obviously and I admire a person who would be brave enough (for whatever reason) to take that job. If women started getting drafted for the war and my bad hip wouldn't be enough to keep me out, I would run faster than you could say "run". I'm so not kidding. And that's if my mom didn't break my legs or try to paralyze me first. So I really do appreciate that someone is volunteering so that my loved ones and I don't have to do so now or in the future. I may not appreciate why anyone would willingly do it but still, I appreciate it nonetheless.
It's just that the word "hero" doesn't feel right to be quite right to be applied in this situation. I mean maybe other people can toss it left and right, but I'm not one of those people. The word "hero" is pretty heavy duty to me. I also think that when people say that the troops are "defending our country/ freedoms", they are talking out of emotion and not really thinking about what they're saying. I can't say something without thinking about it and believing it (which is why I don't say "under God" when I say the pledge in class. It sounds creepy and theocratic, especially considering when it was added, and I am so not for that). Perhaps I could concede that serving in the military is honorable and heroic in and of itself but not that that necessarily makes that person qualified to be called a "hero". While it technically would be different for soldiers who have actually fought in combat, it's a little bit more difficult than that. I feel that it absolutely has to pervade that person's life to the point where it becomes the embodiment of that person (for example, the point when a person is selfish rather than simply doing selfish thing or when they become a monster rather than simply one who is doing terrible things).
One of my biggest issues is that I feel that this kind of language is putting these men and women on pedestals. They are just that, men and women. I think it's not far to use blanket terms for them because they're all different and they all have different views. I think some people paint them as men and women who enlisted purely out of love for their country and as these super-virtuous, super-patriotic people. While that is probably true for a portion of them, I'm not sure that it is for all of them. Many go because of financial reasons and because they seek government assistance with paying with college. That's not a bad reason, of course, but not this big, noble one that people are painting. Some, of course, didn't even want to go but were drafted. There are very good, honest soldiers out there. Then there are the ones in the middle. And then, on the other end of the spectrum, there are terrible, terrible men in uniform (fortunately, they aren't the norm but let's not pretend they don't exist). You know, the ones who take advantage of their position to rape and/or maim the civilians and those below them in rank (specifically women who have a greater chance of getting raped while serving than killed).
Also, not all of them were protecting our freedoms or even anyone's. In all the wars our nation has ever fought, I have to say that World War II is the only war I can see this being true for. Maybe the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, though that's questionable.
Another thing is that soldiers technically aren't the only ones protecting our freedom and our security. Police officers protect us from threats that are much closer to home and therefore more of a threat to us, though they aren't given this hero status(not that I would want them to. I'd be worried about how corrupt cops would be dealt with if this was the situation). The F.B.I also does so. Ambulance responders and doctors protect us; they save our lives. I would also like to argue that those protecting and adding to our rights (activists, not lawyers) and speak out against wrongdoing protect our freedoms also.
I also object to the word "hero" being applied to all who have worn a uniform. Yes, when someone signs the contract, it's assumed they can be stationed anywhere and at anytime. Knowing that and signing anyway is very noble and honorable as well as brave. But to use the word "hero"? That's a bit strong. There definitely is a distinction between someone who actually risked their lives on the battlefield and someone who signed a contract knowing they could do end up doing so. One is in theory; the other is in practice.
I think a lot of people are like this because so many demonize war and therefore the troops. I don't think that's fair either. Calling them murderers and terrible people is totally unfair, especially considering the ones who fought in the battlefield had to do what they could to defend themselves. I'm opposed to demonizing anybody and I think the treatment of those who returned home from Vietnam was terrible. The image of the men (many of whom were actually boys) coming home after being there, lonely and scared, makes my heart ache. I also feel terrible for anyone having to cope with what they've experienced on the battlefield, especially when their inability to do so leads to PTSD, addiction and suicide.
At the assembly I went to, one of the speakers made a comment about how our level of patriotism and willingness to serve ourselves affects how we see the troops. I will confess that I'm not that patriotic. I've thought about it and maybe it's because I'm too logical and because I'm so reluctant to categorize myself on group terms. The super-patriotic people seem to be emotionally-based to me and would be the first to be easily manipulated should someone or something try to take over America (this often doesn't happen slowly most of the time). Perhaps it's also because I don't understand what patriotism supposed to mean. Pride for our culture? Our government? Our politicians? The troops? I'm confused. I mean, I'm glad I don't live in a third-world democracy but at the same time I see the U.S. as it is. It's not number one anymore and it isn't this perfect country. Our government, I will admit, was set up well. However, I disagree with the system of capitalism as it is, our culture is seriously flawed, and our politicians are screwed up on so many levels (not sure how this reflects on government). I already went into the troops.
Of course, the rest of the day went on as usual. I'm sure this wasn't even really thought about by anyone except me. Still, I couldn't and still can't help but think about it. Despite my opinions on the service itself, I cannot deny what these men and women have went through. These are the faces I pass in the hallway and even on the streets. It kind of annoys me, even, that they cram this into a day (or two, I suppose) and that's the end of the discussion.
In conclusion, I want to say that this conversation is needed but it's needed in a truthful context. These men and women shouldn't be reduced as faces on the wall but as real people and their experiences need to be represented in an authentic way.