Today is Remembrance Day, when we collectively try to appease the ridiculousness of sending people off to war by heralding the sacrifice they made. I want to link quickly to some good reading material.
There is a Globe and Mail article that talks about the shift in language from Remembrance Days of the past where the motto was “Never Again” and soldiers were viewed as victims of the tragedy of war to today when Remembrance Day is sold as being about thanking our “heroes” who choose to fight to defend all good things.
The article suggests rejecting both the idea of ‘victim’ and ‘hero’ but I think there’s something important here that we should be asking about why people go to war. Is war something soldiers do or is it something that is done to them? Soldiers are not the decision makers. They aren’t the ones who start the wars, they aren’t the ones who decide if wars are right or not. Are they heroes for being willing to put themselves under the direction of the warmakers? Are they victims for being sent out by the warmakers? Hero or victim – we need to talk about the economic incentive for people to become soldiers, and about the desperation that leads them to view killing as a potential job. We need to talk about the education system that encourages this. We need to recognize that soldiers are people thrown into a system bigger than they are.
We need to talk about how the language of ‘supporting the troops’ becomes political. David Climenhaga Alberta diary points out that the Conservative party regularily uses the glorification of the military for its own purpose, yet when their opposition speaks of Remembrance Day they are criticized for politicizing it. I’m sure part of the justification would be the idea that the Conservative party speaks ‘for the government’ as opposed to for one party, but coming from a party that tried to rebrand the government from the Government of Canada to the Conservative Government, that argument hardly works. I know people who voted Conservative because they believed that the Conservatives value the troops more. We need to talk about how ridiculous the Conservative record towards veterans really is. I’m linking to an article that talks about a number of issues, but one that stands out to me is a growing trend towards dismissing injured soldiers before they reach the 10 year mark required to receive a pension.
There is an article in Truth-Out in which a Vietnam veteran speaks about why he doesn’t want to be thanked for his service. He wrote:
So, when you thank me for my service, it disturbs me … a lot. First off, it brings to mind my wasted youth and lost innocence, and the horrible and unnecessary deaths of good friends and comrades. Second, it reminds me of my responsibility and culpability for the pain and suffering I caused innocent people, again something I would rather forget, but cannot. Third, it reinforces my belief that you have absolutely no idea about the nature and reality of the wars in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, because if you did, you would understand that thanks are inappropriate. Fourth, it reminds me that many of those who feel the need to offer thanks were apathetic about – or even supportive of – the war, while they refuse to participate themselves or did little or nothing to end it. And lastly, I have to admit that I doubt the sincerity of these expressions of supposed gratitude, as “Thank you for your service” is just something to say not because you care about what I did or sacrificed, but only to demonstrate your supposed good character, or patriotism and/or “support” for members of the military and veterans.
There is another good post about Remembrance Day over at Dead Wild Roses, pointing out that the percentage of civilian deaths has grown from making up about 10% of deaths in WWI to 90% of the deaths in Iraq.