Hate the war, respect the warrior. You’ll have to take my word for it when I say that I’m not a pacifist or a troop-hater. For the purposes of this post, however, I have to pull out all the stops. Here we go, then:
No matter the country, we all hear the propaganda: the troops are heroes. The military is inherently righteous. If you love your country you love your military.
Nonsense. While a military force of some sort is necessary for the survival of any nation that doesn’t hide behind another for its safety, there isn’t much else to feel warm and fuzzy about.
First, don’t make the ridiculous assumption that anyone who dons a uniform is automatically a hero. There is a gravy train involved. You don’t have to look for a job. You don’t need to worry about anything pertaining to real life. Just sign up. You know how much easier my life would be if I could just say: “Alright, I’ve decided I want to do this. Here I am, take me away”?
It’s all possible because it’s all on the taxpayer’s dime. All the training, all the gear, all the traveling, all the salary, benefits, pensions, you name it. Even the recruiting propaganda. It’s all possible because it’s paid for by people who don’t have a choice. By people who had to get real and be productive, who have had to struggle and work hard, who had to do far more than just “sign up.” And if they dare try to not support those who live by the sweat of their brow, they are met with violence, confiscation of property, and imprisonment. There is nothing moral about living off of the productive by coercion and oppression.
Finally, we have what the military actually does. Bizarrely, there seems to be some confusion about this. Soldiers kill people and break things. That’s all. That’s what they’re meant for, and that’s the only thing they do well. Sometimes, when our safety is at risk, we need them to kill the bad people and break their things, and in those cases we owe our lives to their success. But in no way should we pretend that their mission of destruction is inherently moral.
I believe the troops always deserve a certain sort of respect. They are much like the garbage man, doing the dirty, nasty job that no one wants to do, but nonetheless has to be done. Keeping that reality at the forefront, they sacrifice life and limb to do the dirty work necessary for the people’s safety, with little recompense and no glory. That sounds like a hero to me.
But a worshiped, privileged class that rarely protects, sometimes destroys, and mostly lives off the hard work of the rest of society? Glorified by the state propaganda machine, offered all manner of opportunity and benefit, supported in entirety by theft from the populace at gunpoint? A massive drain on the resources of the host country, a huge and unnecessary expense nonetheless thrust upon the people? That sounds more like the regime of some third-world despot. Not like a hero.
Resist the war cult. Don’t buy into the lie that anyone who dons a uniform is a hero: in most cases the opposite is true. Do you want to really show your appreciation for society’s heroes? Walk up to any business owner you might find, and thank them for their service to their country, and to humanity at large. You have found a bloody hero.
(Read the follow-up to this post, The Peace Cult)