The White House is at it again with the idea that military service is the be all and end all of a True American™. What pompous self-important jingoistic nonsense. American worship of the military and militarism is a moral hazard – and one antithetical to the rapidly dwindling freedom that still remains here.
This is not to say that those who join the American armed forces are unworthy of respect. For many, the military represents a chance at escape from a life of poverty with few prospects. This “voluntary” recruitment is economic slavery enforced by the blunt instrument of late capitalism. Which does not in any way diminish the bravery of those who gamble their bodies and their health on a chance at at better future. I simply wish that they did not have to.
And then there are those who choose to join the military without an economic gun to their heads. They have deliberately chosen a professional built around violence. To say that they have chosen “defend” America is beyond misleading. America’s military is already so vast that it rivals the rest of the world’s militaries combined. Acclaim firefighters or EMTs or nurses instead – those vocations protect others in one’s community without violence. The choice to become a firefighter does not come with the risk that one may be ordered to prosecute colonialist war or murder anyone.
Nor do soldiers somehow earn a higher rank of citizenship than anyone else. Even setting aside the toxicity of citizenship and nationality as ideas, everyone is entitled to equal dignity and self-determination regardless of the service they render to those around them. But I would still always rather that there be another teacher or librarian or municipal works employee than another soldier. I’d even rather that you choose to be a telemarketer than a soldier, because at least you will never be asked to shoot someone. Telemarketers rarely endure life-altering trauma, and I don’t want that for you or anyone else. Not that I blame you if you didn’t have much choice, but I’d like to imagine a world where you did.
More perniciously, worship of soldiers conflates with worship of the military until it is impossible to discuss foreign policy without the stigma of doing disservice to the sacrifice of soldiers who have died. The true disservice to soldiers is the literal lack of care they receive as veterans and the ever-faster erosion of freedom and inclusion back home.