Thursday, November 11, 2004

It's Veterans Day. But I'm not sure veterans need our support. They seem to already think they're the shit. I get their sacrifice shoved down my throat everytime a flag is waved. The whole feeling approaches one of mindless worship. Is it really true that everytime a member of the Armed Force so much as picks his nose, he is defending freedom and fighting for my rights? How can we have a rational debate about a sector of society that is glorified beyond belief? Most of the military people I've known are modest and pretty low key - in short, they don't feel like the country owes them (except for pension and health care, two areas where it is generally agreed upon that the government has failed to live up to its end of the bargain).

I do, however, have a problem when certain veterans or active military try to make others feel indebted to them because of their "sacrifice". Or when politicians use somebody else's sacrifice to force their agenda upon people. Dubya, I am looking in your direction. I have no problem supporting (whatever that means) any veteran who is actually exposed to danger and:

  1. Serving in the military against his or her will (drafted), or

  2. Fighting against a country that actually attacked us.

However, if you chose to go into the Armed Forces of your own free will, don't expect me to pat you on the back for the rest of your life. Let's just both do our jobs and keep our heads out of our asses. And if you invade a country that has not threatened us (cough cough Iraq cough) you are not "defending" anything about this country or what it represents. Which is fine. Slinging code for a living doesn't really accomplish much of anything, either, but at least I don't try to make you bow down and worship us programmers.

As for soliders who think that just because they served, they're entitled to being eternal heroes: get a life. Serving in the military doesn't by itself make you a hero. Shooting at people doesn't automatically make you a hero. Getting shot doesn't make you a hero.

In fact, we don't even know what it means to be a hero anymore. There are people who say that any soldier, any fire fighter, any police officer, any member of the rescue squad is a hero. But that's bullshit - they're just doing a job they want to. Nobody's forcing them to do it. Why do they get permanent recognition? It denigrates what it truly means to be a hero.

UPDATE 11/15/2004: I amended this post to make it (A) make more sense, and (B) less vitriolic. I do think the glorification of violence is wrong, and that soldiers are just people doing a job like everybody else. There are, of course, those that stand out among their peers - but the glorification of the military is a cult in which I want no part. Funnily enough, most veterans of combat whom I have met feel the same way.

UPDATE 11/16/2004: I think my anger is not at veterans at all. It's directed at people who use veterans as sort of a trump card to by pass genuine dissent about current policies. I don't like to see any group of people be used for political points.

As far as the hero definition goes, Matt puts it much more succinctly than I:

I think being a hero should be judged by your actions not your role. Fulfilling a role on its own is not worthy of the title, "Hero." Running across a field of land-minds while being shot at with machine guns and carrying your comrades back across that same field on your shoulder is being a hero.
Exactly. I think anybody who gives this some thought will realize what's going on here. If I had given the subject more thought from the outset I could have been less offensive, I think.

But I will keep all this here to demonstrate that blogs are worth a rat's ass.

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Written on Thursday, November 11, 2004