On Monday, like every Memorial Day, the cultural sphere was flooded with messages about thanking veterans for your freedom. Although the holiday honors fallen soldiers, social networking sites such as Facebook abounded with pictures reminding us that the military is the foundational source of our lives, liberties and freedom to buy a double-cheeseburger for only 99 cents.
The last time a veteran fought for anything close to American freedom was in the 1940s. Of course, we should remember every fallen soldier, but we should not fall victim to the deification of military service that blurs our thinking and forces us to support the military system and its horrors, confusing the system with the soldiers.
I don’t want anyone to be unclear about my message here, as this is a loaded and complicated subject. Veterans should not be treated like a problem themselves. They are not. We should not consider them categorically as wrongdoers. That would be a major mistake, one that progressive movements made in the 1970s, blaming veterans for the horrors of the U.S. War Against the People of Vietnam (I gave that war a more accurate name, as you can see). The problem that I speak of is of the system itself, not veterans. Vets are among that system’s primary victims.
That system — the military industrial complex, the capitalist war machine — profits immensely from war, and it does all that it can to instill in the population beliefs that will make them docile, ready to accept bogus reasoning that justifies horrific, anti-democratic violence primarily aimed at civilian populations.
The whole veteran worship lie is just a way to indoctrinate people into the militaristic ideology of the U.S. government. It is meant to evoke emotions in us and get us to stop thinking that the military is a machine driven by politics.
It is a way to get people to think that militarism is the source of our liberation. It is not. It is a primary source of our enslavement to a military-corporate sponsored sham of an electoral system. (The banking system is even worse in this respect — but that is another issue).
Did you hear Obama and Romney talk about how we needed to only increase that military machine, never curtail it? Could it be more obvious? Neither side can resist the influence of military corporations, their sponsors.
Sure, at some points in the past fighting was necessary to ensure freedom, but if you want to thank the people who are actually preserving all of the goods of freedom right now, you should be thanking teachers, investigative journalists, whistleblowers, peace activists and the people who spend their lives doing the massive amount of research that it takes to create an understanding of our insanely complex system, an understanding which we can use to effectively make the system work democratically.
Society is like an engine. Take out the radiator or the spark plug or whatever, and it won’t work. No one part is more necessary than another. They are all necessary — all of the economic niches, from nurses to factory workers to firemen. So, to say that military service is on some special level of necessity is wrong. Military service is like the car’s bumper. It only comes in handy when the rest of the unit faces a collision. It doesn’t actually make the car move.
The way that our military has been used is like the bumper of a bumper car, driving us into wreck after wreck, from Korea up to Iraq/Afghanistan. These only made us less safe, less free. These only made military corporations stronger, richer and more able to influence ideology and policy.
One veteran who deserves waves of accolades is Bradley Manning. That military system that you’re supposed to worship told massive lies about the nature of our wars. You can see for yourself on WikiLeaks what Manning exposed at great personal risk. It is beyond clear, given internal documentation, who the military works for and how. It works against us, only to make us more beholden to it and its fellow cronies.
You’re supposed to thank vets. But why? Because we value freedom from coercion for every human being (and we are supposed to believe, falsely, that the military is the ultimate source of that). Freedom from coercion is indeed a supreme value. If we are going to actually uphold it, we should think properly about the military as a system and veterans as victims of that system’s ideology. We should stop allowing that system to murder those veterans that you are thanking. That’s a real thanks, not some meaningless flag waving.
BRIAN MOEN thanks fellow countrymen with his actions, not empty slogans. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.