Monday, November 12, 2018

veteran's day, or at least part of the long holiday weekend that started friday and is still celebrating it, and i, sick in my chair, am scrolling through a facebook feed of hundreds of veterans who are personally being honored by their descendants several generations later, or by spouses or kids back home now. i always "like" these photos and always thank any veteran, as it's hard not to, given that they put their lives on the line for this country and for whatever they sent them over there to do.

they of course are the lucky ones, as they still had someone left behind to take their place, or were able to come back and start over. there are millions more you don't see: they went over, they died, nobody at home put their picture on facebook, then or ever. there is a huge movement to dredge up these old photos but mostly the ones we can find are the ones whose families still had trunks and still existed back home; that already narrows it down by about 80 or 90%. there are also people like me who could probably dredge up an ancestor's photo, but haven't yet; there are limits to how far i'm willing to go. my grandfather, for example, lost his eye to chemical warfare in world war one, and any picture of his patch would suffice as a token of his sacrifice.

there was a point at which fighting in american armies was actually fighting for our freedom; that point might have been 1775, or thereabouts. for 250 years since, it has been fighting for other things, but some of those were valid or at least arguable, like fighting hitler in world war two. there were times when i'm sure it seemed like fighting a war was our only option, or almost only one, and at that time our wars had the vast majority support of our people. the wars of my lifetime were not as clear. vietnam, iraq, desert storm, afghanistan - it seems like our leaders have stopped trying to even justify them. maybe they think if they say "fighting for our freedom" often enough, and loud enough, that will be enough.

what i'm saying is that there is a possibility somebody will go over there, get fully trained in the art of killing, get all dressed up in uniform every day in a hot desert for months, and then somehow get in touch with the cold hard facts - that it's not only not really about our freedom, but also that it's only vaguely and arguably good for anyone, except the arms manufacturers. and that means they come home a little angry. the public, who didn't really support the wars, who even elected both obama and trump in order to get us out of them, is not much help. they are left with their skills, easy access to guns, and a lack of meaningful jobs outside of security guard. the thousand oaks killer came home to this, and one day snapped, on his way to killing twelve people ruthlessly and methodically: "Fact is I had no reason to do it, and I just thought....(exploitive), life is boring so why not?"

what i want to thank the veterans for is keeping it together and keeping it in perspective. one statistic i read was that 22 former veterans commit suicide every day. i don't believe that statistic, but it doesn't matter, i'm sure there are plenty, and the number is far higher than for the rest of us. you go over there, you kill, maybe, and when you come back you have those skills and no real easy path to using other skills well, or dealing with what's inside of you. let's face it, you were part of a machine that demanded that you kill ruthlessly and without emotion, and that used killing as a means to other political objectives, whatever those were. on the one hand, our country relies on its efficient army in a grand sense to protect us and our freedoms from any possible attacker, and in that sense, being part of that military is at least defending our freedom, if not fighting for it. but on the other hand, if all our real combat is on the border of mexico, or in grenada, or mosul, or kabul, and basically, we're doing it because we can, then you, on your return home, if you are lucky enough to do so, represent the steep price we pay for abusing our power. i for one will not withhold the truth. if you tell me you served, i will thank you, because i know your intentions were good. if you tell me you question the reasons you were over there, or the reasons you became so good at killing, at the cost of many millions per day, i'll tell you, sorry, join the crowd. it's not pretty, and making veteran's day into a four-day weekend, with pomp on friday, and extra day off on monday, and every other thing closed, and flags everywhere, somehow doesn't seem to make it better.


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