Veterans Day and a caution against the cult of the military

From The Guardian UK:

Does it honour anyone’s sacrifice to use them to trump doubt about the justice of a war – or simply abuse them all over again?, Sunday 11 November 2012

The video is lovely, affecting and – considering the subject matter – reasonably understated.

A 60-ish guy sits at a lunch counter when a younger man, in army fatigues, walks in and orders a coffee. With no particular fanfare, the waitress serves him … on the house. Side by side, the two men exchange glances, and the younger catches a glimpse of the elder’s forearm tattoo.

As the soldier makes his way with the coffee to a table, a diner approaches him to say:

“Thank you for your service.”

A little boy poses next to him for a photo with a real, live hero.

In America, such offerings of appreciation are now commonplace. A soldier in uniform can scarcely navigate an airport terminal without being accosted every 30ft with spontaneous expressions of appreciation. Because, as we are reminded again and again and again, by play-by-play announcers and presidents, men and women in the uniform are heroes defending our freedom.

Political Correctness 2.0 prohibits anyone from questioning this particular article of faith, although the truism requires a somewhat expanded definition of heroism, and a vastly expanded definition of “defending our freedom.” But the buy-in is nearly universal. It’s as if the entire culture is purging its guilt from the Vietnam era, when returning military were given the cold shoulder on a grand scale.

Vietnam, of course, was a stupid, costly, trumped-up war that divided the nation. And men in uniform bore the brunt of the resentment – even though they were mainly drafted into service. Apocryphal memory has it that soldiers, sailors and airmen were spat upon. No such episode has ever been documented, but nonetheless, the indignation was palpable.

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