Memorial Day

Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day don’t always bring out the best in the uber-patriotic, a community to which I don’t belong, and the anti-war, anti-American imperialism crowd, to which I do belong.  I got into a heated argument with another anti-war activist whose response to Memorial Day was unkind to the troops — and unprintable here.  What follows is my explanation of why I cannot hold men and women in the armed forces in contempt, even as I hold in profound contempt both the ideas behind their current mission and the cowards who blithely send them off to fulfill it.

Here is my side of the exchange:

American imperialism and the death toll it brings to others and to our own is an abomination. But the troops were drafted in Vietnam and before, and unable to wiggle out of it like Cheney/Rumsfeld/Limbaugh; no volition there, just orders from the empire. Not nearly enough went CO or ran to Canada. I wish they all had. With Iraq and Afghanistan and a crashing economy, too many young people wrongly felt the military would save them, and young men saturated in masculinity and misogyny had been primed since birth to fight something, even if it’s wrong. That’s not to excuse them, but to offer an explanation for my belief that it’s the men who love war but are too cowardly to actually place themselves in harm’s way who are the focus of my anger.

And that anger is profound.

War makes killers out of young men who were raised in this world to believe that being masculine is the single pursuit that ought to define them. War kills mother’s sons, if that mother is American; if that mother is anywhere else the U.S. Empire extends, she risks losing everyone she’s ever loved or known, all in service of the voracious appetite of war. But “fuck the troops” accomplishes nothing. Direct that anger toward the Empire and its bloodthirsty minions. Direct that anger toward patriarchy, without which there would be no war. Direct that anger toward those young men who signed up because war is a socially acceptable way to kill people in the service of masculinism. But I can’t bring myself to direct blind rage toward “the troops,” especially when so many are beginning to realize that they’ve been royally used and discarded.

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