I dislike government-declared holidays. I hate holidays designed to evoke uncritical emotional reactions. Above all, I hate holidays that demand that we all adopt some government-supremacist worldview — or keep our mouths shut when we disagree.
We now have two holidays in the year that serve the same purpose: to impose upon us the lie that all soldiers who fight in any war are always “fighting for our freedom.” (As long as they work for the U.S. government, of course. Presumably soldiers who work for opposing governments are all poltroons at best and baby-raping war criminals at worst.)
Today, we’re told that every American soldier who ever died in a U.S. government-conducted war is a hero. Another lie. Of course some were heroes. And some were unconscionable jerks, murderous monsters. The majority were just poor saps who were only following orders.
You name me the soldier, dead or alive, whose sacrifice helped make the world more free and I’ll honor him. Any honor I can give is, of course, absolutely inadequate. But I’ll honor him in the best way I can — by exercising and doing my bit to promote the freedom he strove to protect.
I gladly honor Bradley Manning. Now there’s a man who sacrificed (and is still sacrificing) himself for freedom. And Pat Tillman. He gave up a multi-million dollar football career because he believed (wrongly) that he was defending his country. His government killed him and lied about it — and the truths that his determined family forced to light encouraged freedom by encouraging skepticism about deadly government propaganda. Citizen-soldier Captain John Parker? A man deserving honor indeed. And Hugh Thompson, Lawrence Colburn, and Glenn Andreotta, who put their own lives on the line to halt the My Lai massacre. How could anyone fail to honor them?
And of course there are thousands more freedom fighters — maybe millions the world over — who deserve gratitude that none of us easy-living folks will ever be able to give them.
But freedom requires thinking. And giving uncritical honor to any class isn’t thinking. And calling everyone who ever put on a uniform and obeyed government orders “a hero” is the most damnable sort of lie.
Today we’re ordered to revere the dead. Those who got drafted against their will to serve the purposes of the government-industrial complex. Those who took such cant phrases as “domino theory,” “weapons of mass destruction,” and “they hate us for our freedom” as their substitute for personal investigation and critical thought. Those who died in illegal wars because they didn’t learn, or didn’t care, otherwise. Those who killed non-combatants. Those who were “only following orders” and had no idea what they were actually fighting for.
We’re even supposed to honor those whose government-aiding actions have, over time, taken more and more political freedom from us. We’re supposed to honor people who believe unquestioning obedience is “freedom.” People whose actions have led to ever-larger, ever-more-controlling government, decade upon decade.
We’re supposed to cease thinking and call them all “heroes.” And honor them all for their sacrifice and their “service” — even if the institution and the causes they served are the opposite of everything expressed in the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights.
No thank you. Today (and every day), though I join in mourning the dead, it’s a different kind of death that’s the ultimate tragedy.
And that sacrifice has been for nothing. Nothing.