On Veterans Day and Elections
I posted this on social media:
…I don’t want anything after Tuesday anyway. I want
everyone to think about these kids putting on the uniform now, for the first time. They’re so proud, so eager to serve this nation. In the wake of this divisive election, while we’re still talking about bigotry and stupidity, kids from all walks of life are going to be put in danger for the 99% of you for whom this is all just a movie that will star Bradley Cooper, and even then just highlight one particular kind of service member.
And this was going to be the case regardless of who won on Tuesday.
Honor these kids especially tomorrow, please. You may feel a sense of urgency to honor living WWII veterans, and that’s swell, but you’ve coated *that* generation in saccharine six ways from Sunday. Vietnam, great. But these kids…they were going to pay for whichever of the two candidates won Tuesday, more than any of you ever will.
You see a young slick sleeve private on Friday, you hug that kid, you give them the world. You give them your word that your next vote will not so casually disregard their lives and their futures.
Veterans Day, after all, is for the living. One of my biggest pet peeves is when people confuse Veterans Day and Memorial Day. Veterans Day is for the living. Memorial Day is for the dead.
And Veterans Day, to me, to be relevant, needs to stop being the pageantry of wars remembered, but an acknowledgment of what we’re doing to these fresh-faced kids who will serve in tomorrow’s wars.
We’ve made every possible movie, every possible overwrought paean to the Greatest Generation. We’re erecting monuments every day. Soon, it will be the turn of the Vietnam veterans, though they already beat you about the head and shoulders with it in every VFW from coast to coast. Korean Veterans and Gulf War Veterans are crowded out, and us GWOT folks have almost had to form our own organizations just to get around that.
I’m not diminishing the sacrifice of previous generation’s veterans, not by an inch. But it’s time we start focusing on the sacrifice of the new, especially in an age when so few American serve. No one is conscripted. No one is forced to enlist. This is all people doing it because they are willing to do it. That significance seems lost on the civilian public, or at least the majority of them.
I worked for the Gary Johnson campaign this election, as his Coalition Director for Jewish Outreach. I didn’t become a libertarian overnight after over two decades of being a Democrat, but out of all of the candidates running, he was the only one that consistently displayed true commitment to the people he would lead as Commander in Chief. He didn’t mock POWs or Gold Star families. He didn’t pay lip service to caring for veterans while supporting reckless intervention abroad. He was very reluctant to use the majestic plural “we” when saying anything about ISIS.
This clearly didn’t mean much to many Americans on Election Day. Apathy for what these kids will be called upon to do in our names was manifest with both major party candidates. No need to rehash it, but it was there.
Many of us understood the indignation of Colonel Jessup in A Few Good Men, even if we might be uncomfortable with the hubris.
It’s the future of the Private Santiagos, the Lance Corporal Dawsons, the PFC Downeys, that keep me awake at night. Will they have just and moral leadership? Will they be able to operate with moral clarity when they are called upon to serve abroad? Will an American people care about their individual sacrifices, or will we have to suffer movies about disgusting fabulists in the wake of war, that even service members themselves get roped into artificially believing are the epitome of what we are?
Your obligation to the youth enlisting and commissioning today isn’t satisfied by feel good videos at political conventions. It’s not satisfied by going to see the Tom Clancy novel converted into a film. It’s satisfied by electing responsible leadership. Starting with the primaries this year, you did not do that, America.
These kids will pay the price for that. You owe them so much more than you will ever pay them.