Happy Veterans’ Day!!

I’ve always had issues with Veterans’ Day. I think it’s dangerous in the first place to fetishize things in general, but it’s immeasurably more so to exalt the state, and specifically the military. Most Americans, I’m confident, would agree that North Korea is on some next level dictator-brainwash shit when they worship the Kims, when they prostrate themselves and deify the Glorious Supreme Leader; but these Americans fail to make the connection. What does it say about us as a nation when we can’t even play a high school sports game without removing our hats and saying a prayer to American Imperialism? And American Jesus forbid someone fails to properly demonstrate their abject adoration for the flag and what it ostensibly represents, we’ll have the president of the United States calling for them to be fired from their job and ejected from society! It’s nutty, it’s scary, it’s dangerous.

Shortly after I joined the Army I found myself believing I’d made a terrible mistake. I thought I was surrounded by mindless fanatical bigots with rifles who wanted nothing more than to kill, kill, kill black and brown ungodly savages around the world. I honestly thought I was going to die, in service of an imperial power that spreads exploitation and corruption around the world. I regretted it more than anything in my short life up to that point, and it weighed heavily on me. Then I spent some time working with these men and women, learning and growing and becoming a better version of the young man who arrived at Fort Knox, Kentucky during a January ice storm wearing shorts and Chucks and a hoodie. I discovered that the majority of these people were just like me, young men and women who genuinely believed that joining the military was the best thing that they could do at the time, whether for themselves or their families or their country, or even their god; we were all earnest human beings trying to navigate our ways through life and do as much good as we could. I personally joined because I wanted to go to college, and there was no possible way I could afford it on my own; here we are all these years later and I still haven’t gone back to college, what a responsible man I am!

During my time in the Army, I learned a lot about myself. I learned what discipline is and how it can help one reach one’s potential. I learned about determination and mental fortitude. I learned about teamwork and sacrifice. And I learned that I was right about my thoughts on Imperialism and American Supremacy. For a while I let my service come to define me. It’s not hard while you’re serving in a war; you really do leave everything behind and go out into a hostile place, the only assurance of your safety is your own discipline and the discipline of those around you, your only lifeline back to the real world is that uniform and the hope that there are more of you than there are of them, or at least that you are better trained and equipped. They even encourage this type of simplified discrimination, pounding into the heads of our service members the creeds and oaths that solidify the belief that nothing or no-one on Earth is better than an American soldier. I never gave a shit about the National Anthem, but I came to revel Reveille and Retreat, I sang The Army Goes Rolling Along under my breath without thinking about it, and I took especial pride in the creases of my trousers and the gleam of my shoes.

When I became a civilian again the novelty quickly wore off. It did take some time to adjust to the real world once again, but after I had I fell back into life reasonably comfortably. The majority of people I worked and spent time with were all veterans as well. Not through any rigorous screening process, but because the careers one falls into after the military are largely quite similar. I don’t have a whole lot of friends these days, mostly, I’m sure, due to my anxiety and depression and non-neurotypical eccentricities, but I do keep in touch with a group of people that are mostly fellow vets. When we were in the military, being the best was part of the gig. We were paid to not just believe we were better than everyone else, but to do everything in our power to make that a reality; though rarely, if ever, was it true. Being tough, in shape, on point, squared away, smarter, stronger, faster than everybody else is part of the paycheck; and it’s so much more than just a paycheck. To be a successful service member one genuinely must adopt the ideology, if not entirely than at least in part; the indoctrination one is subject to is both effective and deep. But, when one rejoins the real world, one is expected to leave that behind. Some of us manage it, though many of us don’t.

I have a buddy who never served, has never been a football fan, he couldn’t care less about the San Francisco 49ers or anything at all about the game, but has gone out of his way multiple times to express his hatred of Colin Kaepernick. He says it’s because of the sacrifice that every single service member has made, but when I tell him that I sit for the Anthem he finds a way to change the subject. Look, folks, there absolutely is an element of group identity and chauvinism to military service, and I’ll even entertain the argument that it’s essential to esprit de corps, but once you’ve separated from that environment you’re supposed to let that shit go. I know some vets who agree with me on the important parts of this whole politics thing, but I know more, troublingly more, who don’t. I see too many vets walking around at these Trump rallies and Protect The Vote rallies and Q-Anon rallies with their rifles in their hands and their fingers itching for the triggers. There are a striking number of vets who can’t let it go and have failed to develop an identity or a personality for themselves and religiously cling to the lies that Fox News regurgitates and Daddy Trump retweets. Being veterans, we should know better, they trained us to have humility and respect and dignity, not throw hissy fits when someone hurts our feelings.

Yes, service members make sacrifices. But, hey, guy, we haven’t been defending your freedom for a long damn time. You mean to tell me that you really believe the American military is out there fighting for your freedom? I don’t think you’re that dumb. In fact, you’ve demonstrated that it’s not intellectual by refusing to have a coherent conversation about it any time it gets brought up. The fact that you jump to the emotional arguments and the vague rhetoric shows me that you are aware deep down of just how full of shit you are, and you’re afraid to admit it to yourself because you know you’d have to rethink your entire worldview. That’s actually a good thing, guy, the ability to incorporate new information and adapt to it is something they teach us to do in the military. All these Trumpist vets have forgotten the values of Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, and Personal Courage, and are instead indulging the selfish urge to self soothe by masturbating with their thinly veiled bigotry. Real patriots fight against tyranny and oppression, you cucks are over here LARPing and cheering for an administration that is actively trying to undermine the American Values that you swore to defend.

My service taught me how to be a better person, it taught me the value of determination and discipline, it taught me how to comport myself with dignity. It did not, however, grant me some divine right to swing my dick around all over the place, it did not infuse me with baby Jesus’ red, white and blue blood, and it did not have anything to do with fighting for freedom. Rather, we were fighting to protect property, resources, investments, capital, and ideology. I know that not every vet is going to come out feeling exactly like me, and I honestly don’t think they should, I would hate it if I were right about everything because that would mean the human race is indeed fucked; but I cannot accept the fact that there are so many of my brothers and sisters walking around cheering for the Trump administration. You people should be ashamed of yourselves. At the very least you should remember that you swore to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, and the current administration has signaled many times that they will do anything they can to usurp and maintain power and delegitimize the democracy that you so often claim to hold so dear and above all else.

Vets, get your shit together! You passed the ASVAB, I know you’re smart enough to see what the fuck is going on. Stop letting your silly feelings and biases get in the way. If anything, I’d expect all of you to be the first people in line to defend American democracy from tyranny. And I know there are people who are gonna be like “Naw, man, it’s all just for show, Trump will leave in January, they’re just doing this shit to save face.” Though I hope you’re right, I can’t help but worry that the damage being done to the system is irreparable and deeper than you want to admit, and I wonder how many fanatical Trumpists out there are going to take things too far, once again, and go do some domestic terrorism. And by the way, are we even going to talk about the surge in COVID here in America, how many more Americans need to die before you realize where our enemy is hiding?

Secular Humanist writer, photographer, and quintessential millennial dilettante. Check out https://threebillionbeats.com for more, you can even buy prints!

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