Salon’s most read article today is by David Masciotra, and the headline and first paragraph are promising:
You don’t protect my freedom: Our childish insistence on calling soldiers heroes deadens real democracy
It’s been 70 years since we fought a war about freedom. Forced troop worship and compulsory patriotism must end
Put a man in uniform, preferably a white man, give him a gun, and Americans will worship him. It is a particularly childish trait, of a childlike culture, that insists on anointing all active military members and police officers as “heroes.” The rhetorical sloppiness and intellectual shallowness of affixing such a reverent label to everyone in the military or law enforcement betrays a frightening cultural streak of nationalism, chauvinism, authoritarianism and totalitarianism, but it also makes honest and serious conversations necessary for the maintenance and enhancement of a fragile democracy nearly impossible.
But then the article immediately goes off the rails:
It has become impossible to go a week without reading a story about police brutality, abuse of power and misuse of authority. Michael Brown’s murder represents the tip of a body pile, and in just the past month, several videos have emerged of police assaulting people, including pregnant women, for reasons justifiable only to the insane.
It is equally challenging for anyone reasonable, and not drowning in the syrup of patriotic sentimentality, to stop saluting, and look at the servicemen of the American military with criticism and skepticism. There is a sexual assault epidemic in the military.
This is a sharp curve from thinking seriously about the role of military in and for our country, to skipping right into unrelated issues of violence against Americans by uniformed American perpetrators. It’s almost as if the writer intended to stir up anger against the first topic by making false (or at the very least controversial) accusations using the second topic.
It’s hard to find thoughtful discussion of this. Lew Rockwell is always good for a whole bunch of words on the subject, but his website is certainly generating more heat than light. Not even worth linking to.
It’s a shame, because we need to have this discussion in a less emotional way. It’s hard for the mom of a boy who enlists, to see her son return a damaged man, and not at least get to call him a hero for his losses. There’s just way too much emotion involved in that. But just because the military injured him, and then dumped him back on her without sufficient resources to properly get him back into a healthy civilian life, that does not make him a hero. This should be a conversation that we demand as a country. Is our military really being used to defend freedom, for us or anyone else? Are they being used to influence balance of power in far away places, for political gain or corporate profits or other less noble purposes? Is Daesh really a threat to us? How much of a threat? What are the most effective ways to minimize the threat? Why does it feel like we always begin with killing? What does protecting freedom really mean?
Here’s a heroic story, from the last war that began with an enemy invading the USA: