Freedom, the US military, and me

“How U.S. Companies Profit From War” originally published by AJ+

I came across this video (embedded above) on my Facebook feed and without a beat, I thought to click “Share.” And then I paused. I’ve grown accustomed to posting articles and videos on the internet assuming that everyone knows where I’m coming from or assuming that what I post ought to immediately resonate with those in my circles. Given the highly contested issues and stances that continue to flood our feeds, I thought I’d do something a little different with this video.

Here, I will share a little more of what I thought of when I viewed this video.

Because I don’t express my thoughts and views about the US military or Department of Defense lightly or without grounds.

Let me try to level with you here.

The US military is a sensitive topic for many of my friends and family who currently make or formerly made their livelihood and who support their/our families through working in the military. Yes. This is close to me.

I recognize my own ironic privilege in having only been able to afford access to my bachelors and master’s degrees with educational monetary benefits from the US Department of Veterans Affairs as a result of my dad’s service and with financial assistance from my mom, who worked for a very long time at the Naval Hospital in Balboa Park.

I recognize that their work with the US military is how I was fed, how I was sheltered, how I was able to be born and raised in southeast San Diego with a relative amount of stability and surrounded by our extended families, many of whom were and are also affiliated with one of the many military presences in San Diego.

I recognize the painful reality that my dad’s recent passing and extended struggle with ALS (read: drawn-out hell) was connected to his decades of work in the US Navy and Merchant Marines.

I am here able to write to you because my family’s roots in the US were only able to grow deep with the support of DoD employment.

The military-industrial complex is a huge reason why I am intimately critical of the United States and its military institution. Our country’s leadership continues to assert the need for all things related to war and defense with obscure language like “fighting for our freedom” or “protecting our freedom.” Our country’s leadership says things like, “America is the greatest country in the world,” and make decisions that encourage and advocate for a capitalist/free market society. These are the kinds of phrases we continue to see over and over whenever any topics related to US military forces abroad come to surface.

But then I take a step back and consider things like my intimately conflicting experiences and things like what this video shows us — and it’s showing us that these phrases we’ve been taught to believe and to tell ourselves have very little to do with the core of what drives US military growth and expansion: financial interests.

How can I be expected to believe that building and maintaining a robust military institution is at all related to freedom?

Freedoms for whom?

To do what?

Why?

And at what cost?

No, it’s not easy for me to be critical. It’s really quite painful.

Every time I drive through my city and see a car with a base access sticker on their driver’s side windshield, every time I drive past Miramar Road, 32nd Street, or the Pacific Highway, every time I see “Support Our Troops” bumper stickers on the 805 or 15 or 163, I am reminded of these ironies and hypocrisies.

The US military is why I exist.

I am critical because I care deeply about my family’s and community’s experiences, and because I believe that grounded critique allows us to strive for better. Because we need to do better.

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