This op-ed is one that has been months in the making. I have written it, deleted it, brought it out of my Windows recycle bin to work on again only to delete it a few days later. That cycle has repeated itself over the past two months because the stance that I am trying to take makes me feel uncomfortable. It makes me uncomfortable because I have been raised in an American culture where celebrating the military and police uniform and those who wear them is a part of the unwritten social contract that one must never break if one wants one’s image as an American patriot to remain intact. However, after reflecting on an experience with a friend at a hockey game I have decided that I must write this because it is a discussion that needs to be had in our country.
In 2018, I invited a friend to a Nashville Predators hockey game. We were having a good time until he said something that got under my skin and offended my conservative snow-flake mind. When it came time to honor a veteran of the United States military, a second period Nashville tradition, he mentioned how it made him feel uncomfortable to celebrate the military the way that we do, not just in Nashville, but in the U.S. in general. I didn’t show how pissed off I was then but internally I was fuming. At the time, to me, that was an insult to the highest degree. To not celebrate our military, our soldiers, is to shit on the sacrifices that they make daily both in this country and abroad.
However, as I have aged and began to think critically about my social world, I have come to share that same uncomfortable feeling during military celebrations when attending sporting events. I have noticed that it isn’t just the soldier’s bravery that is celebrated during these breaks in play, the PA announcer almost always highlights the battle or a war that the soldier’s bravery was displayed in. In other words, there is a conflation of the soldier and the cause.
This merging of cause and soldier into one is quite dangerous. It is dangerous because once this merger occurs people can no longer separate the cause and the human who is forced to fight the war. So, when the reasons for war is questioned, or the justification of the war is called into question, then the humanity, bravery, masculinity of the soldier is called into question as well. Leading to emotionally charged reactions from the American public.
Need I use anything more than the vile reaction of conservative me, and conservatives in general, to Collin Kaepernick taking a knee during the national anthem as proof that this social group-think brought about by anthem and military celebrations is bad? Kaepernick wanted to place a spotlight on the fact that the cops could, and did, get away with killing un-armed black males, as well as highlighting how the criminal justice system in America fails the non-white community and acts as a system of oppression preventing non-whites from obtaining upward mobility. Highlighting these shortcomings in America’s greatness has absolutely nothing to do with the bravery of the men and women in uniform, but we conservatives did tremendous mental gymnastics and made the kneeling about just that.
The truth is the men and women in uniform are brave. Their actions are brave, but the causes that they are forced to fight are not always just, and that is no fault of the soldier. At the end of the day I’ll always respect those who have the guts to risk their lives for strangers, and I’ll always respect someone who is willing to give their life so that I can continue to live mine. However, I cannot in good conscious continue to support any celebration of unjust wars and attacks on sovereign countries. I cannot, we should not, be celebrating the destruction of independent states.
I am sorry but defeating Saddam Hussein did nothing for our freedom. What it did do was help the United States show off its military power and jockey for position in the battle for Middle East oil fields. It was a war of political gamesmanship that did nothing to further the causes of, or ease the ailments of, the middle and working classes in America; let alone save us from Terrorism. While the bravery of my friends that fought in Iraq is worthy of praise, the war in Iraq is not.
If you want to celebrate and support the military then fund the VA instead of defunding it and turning it into a for-profit “health-care” organization. Provide them housing when they come home. Provide our men and women in uniform healthcare when they come home. Provide our men and women in uniform mental healthcare when they come home shell shocked and riddled with PTSD. Stop acting like your two minutes of lip service at a sporting event does them any good. Stop acting like the cause and they are the same thing. If you get angry when the justification of a war is called into question, do not get angry at those of us who question such things. Get angry at those who forced men and women to give their lives so that they, the politician and military commander, could taste victory.
But for me. I am one hundred percent done with military celebrations and national anthems at sporting events. I will sit during both. What I will continue to do, what I will encourage the readers to do, is to support the soldier with your time, your vote, and your money. That would be much more patriotic than any three minutes you spend singing words or cheering at your next football game.