I Didn’t Fight For Your Freedom

A re-post from a couple of years ago that I hope, some day, never needs to be said again.

Nope. No freedom being defended here.

So it’s Veterans Day, which means that the US is awash with mostly obligatory tributes to military personnel.

I hate this shit.

I didn’t fight for your freedoms. In the six years I was in, I never once defended your right to vote, or to carry a gun, or to be secure against unreasonable search and seizure (that one doesn’t really apply anymore, anyway), or any of the other things you enjoy as a citizen of this country. I just didn’t. Neither did anyone who went to Iraq, or Afghanistan, or Vietnam. It’s all bullshit. It’s a fucking lie that we tell ourselves and each other so that we don’t have to think about why we send young men and women to serve, suffer, and die for old men’s vainglorious ideas and profit margins.

I passed through Burlington, WI on Saturday to visit their annual chocolate festival. Who could say no to that, right? Well, while there (this being Wisconsin), I got myself a beer. To do so, you had to put up with the shitty metal cover band in the beer tent. There’s a 45-year-old lead singer acting a fool–pouring beer on his own goddamned head, making dumb-ass sexist remarks, saying stupid shit about his teen-aged daughter, etc. Since that wasn’t reprehensible enough, he then proceeded to thank all the veterans in the crowd, specifically pointing out one man whose–well, I’ll just quote this asshole.

I wanna thank all of our veterans for what they do for us. Every guy in the band, our fathers were all in the military. My dad was in Korea! This guy right here in front–his son is in Iraq right now. He’s over there FIGHTIN’ FOR OUR RIGHT TO PARTY!

I wanted to rush the stage and strangle that fuck with a microphone cord.

It’s all bullshit, folks. We don’t do anything for anyone’s freedom. The military hasn’t actually deployed en masse to defend your freedom in a long, long time. Unless you call rich people fucking over the world’s poor and powerless a form of freedom. As you may have guessed, I don’t. It’s bullshit. And it needs to stop.

I don’t mind honoring sacrifice, but the military doesn’t have a monopoly on that, now does it? I also don’t mind remembering military dead and wounded. But we do it all wrong. We just fetishize the suffering (like good Catholics, no?) without wondering why it ever happened in the first place. Remembrance and memorial, it would seem, also involve reflection and assessment. Just because someone died or was wounded doesn’t automatically validate how he or she came to be in that state. We send our young people overseas to be bored, pull duty, sometimes get shot at, and occasionally get hit. Then we never ask why they’re over there in the first fucking place, because doing so, apparently, does them a disservice. What kind of jack shit is that?

A real Veterans/Remembrance Day would involve commitments to cease sacrifices that don’t actually, you know, do anything in the name of freedom. Losing your legs so that Chevron can see higher profit margins is not noble. It’s a god damned shame. Dying in the service of defense contractors doesn’t bestow sainthood on the deceased. It just means that a life got snuffed out for no good reason. Reflexive military worship is a cancer on society. Unscrupulous people use it to justify their actions and avoid any criticism. That shit makes the act of asking why we should send young people to absorb bullets and get blown to pieces into some kind of subversion and/or sedition. How fucking ridiculous is that? Wondering if someone’s death was worth the cost doesn’t dishonor the person. I don’t know how we’ve confused evaluating the motives and actions of leaders with spitting on corpses, but we have. And until we can untangle those things, we’re just well and truly fucked when it comes to international affairs.

So this Veterans Day, take a minute to actually reflect on the acts and deeds of people in uniform. But that involves critical thought instead of blind acceptance of the rightness of our leaders’ actions. Honor the dead and care for the living, but don’t think that people in uniform today are actually standing between you and tyranny.

Remember that.

13 thoughts on “I Didn’t Fight For Your Freedom

  1. As many a vet has told me (including those who served as high ranking in war zones), on the ground, all you’re thinking about is you and your unit getting back home alive.

  2. i watched as many of HBO’s pacific as i could once i found it while surfing. i stayed up an extra hour to watch the last one. it also made me think of the one family member who was a marine in the pacific. here’s to bob gumm.

  3. To each his own, BSO, to each his own.
    As for being wrong, history will tell. It always does. What you conceive of as protecting this country may well be, in actuality, the cause of its eventual destruction (potentially, a high irony, given the excuse that it’s done in the name of national security).

  4. When Gulf War I was on the horizon, I had two vets that I knew very well. One was my father, and the other was my boss.
    Both had served in Korea, reaching Sargent during their service. Their tales of war were mainly of survival, and doing their job.
    Both told me not to go, and, if a draft were instituted, they would help me avoid it.

  5. One other stray thought, derived from reading several histories of WWI-WWII and the time in-between.
    After WWI was over, the German nation was shattered from the costs of the war and the reparations they were forced to pay. Eventually, Hitler was able to take power and bring them back to war in order to try to return to the status quo ante.
    From the histories, Hitler often noted that he served in the trenches of WWI, with distinction, and was one of the few who had found the war invigorating. This likely influenced how he viewed war making once he came to power, with the consequences that the world suffered.
    Dulce and decorum est, indeed.

  6. Thank you for saying this. Its the kind of thing I want to say every year (well twice a year, Memorial Day is even worse) but I hold back because I did not “serve”. Well fuck that. I preferred this Holiday when it was called “Armistice Day” or “Remembrance Day”. Not “Shut up and take it you lowly Civilian” Day

  7. Thank you, Jude. I live in a town with 2 military bases and the Military Industrial Complex is a large part of our economy (in addition to tourism). The fetishsizing of “heroes” that “protect our freedoms” makes me ill. I respect and admire every person that serves in our armed services. I despise that these volunteer service persons are forced to fight for corporate interests that have nothing to do with securing our “freedom.”
    In my experience, the threats to our freedom lie right here at home (NYC cops vs Occupy, Ohio & Florida governors & secretaries of state).
    It is immoral and un-American to sacrifice our military personnel on the altar of corporate profit.
    Thank you to Jude and anyone else that served our country. I remember those that died with a heavy heart, and I will continue to advocate for the proper care we promised our wounded warriors.

  8. Montag:
    If you’re still on about blowing up that professed traitor over in the Af-Pak,
    I’m DOWN WITH WHAT HAPPENED — he’s no different, no less a danger to my country,
    than was Vernon Howells or Timothy McVeigh. You dig it? If you can’t, well, sorry
    ’bout ya. But you’re still wrong. Insofar as “using the military as the first tool
    of diplomacy,” well, fuck that notion — or don’t you remember Christopher Stevens?
    You’re still wrong.

  9. Jude,
    Thanks for what you did, every day you wore that uniform.
    Never forget that being there, doing that, meant being ready
    and willing to do more if you were needed.

  10. Unfortunately, many of those people who reflexively (or cowardly) accept the “they’re fighting for our freedoms” propaganda, who xenophobically see tyranny everywhere outside our borders, are the same people who meekly accept tyranny at home.
    Obama arrogating the power to kill U.S. citizens without due process, or ignoring Congress in the use of military force, is precisely the sort of monarchical tyranny that the Constitution was intended to prevent.
    The parallel track of increasing militarism at home is the increasing use of the military abroad as a first tool of diplomacy, which has unnecessarily placed large numbers of military personnel in harm’s way. The good commander knows that the best use of the military is in the war that isn’t fought.
    We seem to have forgotten that over the years, and the results have been a series of military misadventures which act as self-fulfilling prophecies, the unanticipated consequences of each propelling us toward the next conflict. That’s not “protecting our freedoms.” That’s institutional insanity.

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