Regarding Veterans Day
I try not to make my military service a defining part of my life. Ideally, when my obituary is written up, it will be little more than a footnote to give perspective to whatever else I accomplish or aspire to and nothing more. But today is a day specifically meant for that sort of reflection, and considering recent developments, I feel it's more important than ever.
I've always had mixed feelings about having served since I consider myself an inherently peaceful person. But I experienced and learned a lot while serving and it afforded me many opportunities to explore what I wanted to do with my life beyond my enlistment. I'm also fortunate to have weathered my service with my body and mind mostly intact, and without being forced into any morally compromising situations. I know others who weren't so fortunate, and my heart goes out to them.
I could always feel some sense of gratitude regarding my service though, whether it be for some of the people I met, the places I was able to see, or the ways in which I grew as a person (both because and in spite of toxic masculine military culture). These undoubtedly enriched my life and helped shape the lens through which I view the world to include more points of view. Beyond that though, the intention behind my service and what it was ultimately in the name of, at least on an idealistic level, had some notion of nobility to it, even if it didn't hold up under scrutiny.
What I understood my service to be was a bulwark between colder, more hostile, and less reasonable entities and those that wanted nothing more than to live their lives with a measure of safety, self-determination, and equality. I remember when I saw Captain America for the first time and Steve, upon being asked how he felt at the prospect of killing Germans, simply replied "I don't like bullies. I don't care where they're from". Something inside me lit up and cried "Yes, that's what I stand for".
But Tuesday night it was made clear to me that so much of America is willing to admire a bully so long as it's their bully (and by "their" I mean the privileged who will bear the least of the burden, both directly from his policies and indirectly through the hateful actions his ascendancy has lent legitimacy to). At first I met this with a measure of calculated stoicism. My job for the moment was to help those close to me process and manage their reactions to this bizarre new development. Music was played, dancing was done, and pillows were punched/screamed into.
It was only a matter of time though before I had to start unpacking my own feelings. As I kept imagining how this would affect the most vulnerable among us, and it just kept getting worse and worse in my mind. Between fits of puking and crying, something occurred to me. If this is what America valued and wanted, and it was only a thin veil that hid it, I was ashamed to have ever taken up arms in the name of that.
There are a few facts and hopes I'm still clinging to in order to maintain my sanity in this new world. The popular vote was overwhelmingly against Trump. Not necessarily pro-Hillary, that ship sailed and sank, but the majority of the American people in varying degrees do not stand with Trump. Between these and the millions of his supporters who will in coming years experience buyer's remorse on an unheard of scale, there may still be hope for us.
I still remember waiting for the school bus and hearing the news about the World Trade Center not two weeks after I had enlisted. My immediate reaction was "Well THIS is another fine mess I've gotten myself into". Once my natural sense of snark receded though, a level of fear and uncertainty started to grow in me and culminated two and a half years later when I found out I would be sent to a completely unrelated war that I inherently disagreed with. I felt that same fear and uncertainty since last Tuesday.
So this Veterans Day, don't thank me for my service. Don't even apologize for how the meaning behind it has become perverted beyond imagining. Instead, reach out to someone currently serving who is scared and uncertain as to what their future holds. Reach out to those who have recently separated from the military who face the very real possibility of being involuntarily yanked back into service, having to put their lives on hold for the whims of a madman. Reach out to those who will have to endure years of being surrounded by sycophants who welcome this new paradigm with open arms, closed minds, and hateful hearts.
Remind them there is still an America worth protecting and fighting for.
Thanks for listening.