Monday, May 30, 2011

Saints Or Soldiers?

On this Memorial Day it will be repeated ad nauseum that the long suffering soldier deserves our thanks. But why? Despite the typical short-sighted responses, it is a question that is rarely addressed honestly. We are repeatedly encouraged to praise our veterans and active troopers with a veneration more often heard in a church. Indeed, they have become demigods in our war-obsessed nation, and even those opposed to the current conflicts are still disposed to praise the bravery of the soldier at the front, while laying the blame for their troubles entirely at the feet of our leaders. It does not appear to occur to them, that if there were no soldiers there would be no war to oppose.

An argument could be made that, when the draft was in effect, our active service members warranted our empathy (even though through the drafts entire history there were many who chose prison to state sanctioned murder, though that is another matter). However, our modern military is purely voluntary. Those who serve it do so of their own free will, and therefore hardly deserve to be anointed saints. Theirs is a profession, albeit one of killing, but a profession nonetheless. They are paid a wage, and even their advertising is geared to emphasize the career and training benefits of military membership. Indeed, the very word “soldier”, derives from salary as, historically, a soldier's loyalty was only as good as his pay. This at a time before the modern nation state, when the soldier stood in a class hierarchy little higher than civil servants, and little different in name than mercenary's.

This leads me to the next question: How often do you thank your garbage man? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, refuse collecting is one of the most dangerous jobs in civic employment, right up there with fire fighting and police work. Yet, despite its dangers, the men and women who collect our trash are out there on the front lines, doing their duty. Where is their monument in the capital? Could it be that there is simply no romance in waste removal? Yet, it is a job that must be done, and a far more pressing issue on a hot summer day.

Finally, in all seriousness, we must ask: Are those who join the military full adults, who should accept the responsibilities of their action's, or naive children who should be pandered to? Whether it is one or the other, in either case they have no claim to sainthood.

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