Interesting piece in today’s NYTimes by someone who thinks we aren’t all being sufficiently honoring of the nation’s war dead on Memorial Day (click!) here.
He ends up with an idea from Robert Heinlein’s book “Starship Troopers” in which citizenship has to be earned, and says maybe it’s time we did that in the US so people will pay proper respects.
You can read the piece yourself. I just have a couple of thoughts:
This writer, a fighter pilot, says exortations to remember the falled military of our nation on Memorial Day are not having the desired effect. From what I can see, every cemetery is filled with flowers and there are lots of memorial services all over.
Obviously this is not sufficient, but he does not say what would be.
What does he want — A mandatory requirement that all people in America stand with their hands over their hearts, face Boston Harbor, and weep visibly for five minutes? A national day of wearing sackcloth and ashes?
OK, that sounds snarky, but what?
How does this person know what is in people’s hearts? Maybe they did go to the cemetery, spend an hour looking at flags, got tired and went home and cracked a brew and threw some dogs on the grill. If the only time on Memorial Day you see them is when they’re drinking that brew, don’t make assumptions.
There’s a bigger narrative at work here, though — I see it in the “Don’t forget who fought to give you that freedom of the press” jibe that I get occasionally from military types who don’t like something I’ve written.
There’s an unspoken threat in that statement that ”I have a gun that defends your right to be a jerk. Better hope I don’t decide to point it at you.”
Basically, this writer thinks he’s better than the rest of us because he’s been to war and we haven’t. This writer’s proposal that citizenship be earned by service harkens to this: We paid the price, we get to make the decisions.
This tosses the whole idea of democracy out on its ear, of course, and does a big number on that silly notion of civilian control of the military that our Founding Fathers so feared.
But who cares what Ben Franklin and Tommy Jefferson (neither one a veteran) thinks? This is American greatness we’re talking about here.
This writer, like many, bemoans that not enough Americans have “skin in the game” of defending the country, and he’s right, but whose fault is that?
This writer needs to direct his ire directly at those who declined to ask Americans for that skin.
After 2001 and the Twin Towers, Americans everywhere were asking their elected leaders ”Oh leaders, what shall we do, our nation calls!” and our leaders were telling them right back “Oh Americans, go shopping!”
No, seriously, that is what George Bush told us to do. He could have asked for, and gotten, war taxes, volunteers, gassless Fridays, whatever he wanted.
He didn’t ask. ”Go shopping” he said. “If you stay home the terrorists win.”
So we went shopping and inflated a housing bubble that made Bush look as if he were in charge of a really great economy, but it deflated just a tad too soon and here we are.
We know why Americans were’t asked to do more for the current wars: They wouldn’t have done it.
Not because Americans aren’t willing to sacrifice, and not because they aren’t willing to defend their country, but because if they had been asked to do both for these wars they would have, for the most part, seen these wars as the foreign enterprises for oil they are, not defending the country.
We went along because when your job to help your country is to spend an afternoon at Neimann Marcus trying on suits, you’re not real skeptical of why are being asked to do it.
If your job is to send your first born off to get his head blown off, you pay a lot more attention.
This writer dismisses the draft, and war taxes, but maybe we ought to try those before we do away with Democracy and make it a meritocracy where (what a conicidence!) guys like this writer just happen to qualify for leadership positions.
If Americans aren’t willing to pay a war tax, or have a draft that sends their kids off to die whether they want to or not, then it is time to end the war, not trash what makes America what it is.
When members of the military — and remember, they have guns! — start saying that they’re the only ones qualified to lead the nation, you can kiss Democracy good bye.