Happy 4th

The Fourth of July seems to have become a holiday devoted to celebration of the military. We have parades, we have fly-bys, we have speeches honoring the brave men (and now, women) who are overseas, serving and defending our country. We’ve always had some of this, but in the past it was the military celebrating alongside the rest of America, not America celebrating the military. What has changed?

I think part of it has to do with the ending of the draft. It used to be that everyone had served, or knew someone who served. Today, not so much. While there’s still a large group of people who know someone in the Reserves or the Guard, the total is way down from the 50’s and 60’s. More to the point, people no longer feel threatened by the possibility of conscription, so they can afford to wast some pleasantries on some uniformed stranger who is going off to die in some dusty country. Plus, it’s cheap. Like inflated job titles in some underfunded Silicon Valley startup, we can give fancy lip-service to someone we don’t want to give a high salary or effective post-service medical care to.

In addition, it’s good corporate policy to be seen being patriotic, by including a “thank you for your service” in their employee practices, by offering servicemen and women half off, if they come in uniform, or by building a new MLB ballpark at Fort Bragg. It costs very little — smiles are free, nobody who’s been stuffed in a uniform all week wants to slag around in it on the weekend, and the Fort Bragg logo on one end of the sign can be balanced by the Chevy logo on the other.

As someone who has served overseas in one war (VietNam), one almost war (Korea) and one Cold War (Europe), I am mildly put off by all this “Thank you for your service” propaganda. If you want to thank us for our service, stop getting us into stupid wars.

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