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Nor the Battle to the Strong?

I saw several ROTC cadets walking in formation and out of habit touched my forehead in respect. I guess it's the equivalent of tipping our hats in this hatless age. I did it without being fully conscious of it because I had a lot on my mind (teaching the Divided Line will do that to you), but I sure thought about it afterward.

Supporting our troops is something I care about deeply. Although I'm becoming more pacifistic the more I think about it, I do try to support those people who are willing to put aside their lives for a few years to do something they deeply believe in. Deep moral issues aside, I actually believe that our country is made less safe rather than more safe by our acting as the "strong arm of the law," and I think it's hypocritical to talk about rights, justice, and the like given our cultural genocide of Native Americans, to say nothing of slavery and our immigration policies. These are things I feel deeply about. But I also respect principle, equally as deeply, and so while our foreign policy doesn't really sit well with me, I try my hardest to respect the soldiers who are trying to do what they think is best.

You can see why I'm a bit conflicted. I am conflicted. I regularly teach ROTC'ers and returning vets, and I think they bring an invaluable perspective to the issues we talk about. I want to minimize their sacrifices, but I also want to make it worthwhile - because, since I work with vets, I know that "walking wounded" includes more than just people with amputated legs. So I feel quite strongly as well that we should only send people into battle when all other courses have been exhausted. And that getting upset over being scanned at the airport or of using amped-up patriotism that leads to less cooperation and more intervention is a poor way of treating their service. I wouldn't want my brother to die, and I wouldn't want him to have to have come home having killed someone and having to live with that. (I mention him because, like all male Americans, he had to register for the draft; I didn't because of my gender; he's not a vet or anything.)

What I do resent is the idea that military service is the only way to serve your country. I get upset when I see vets sanctified but schoolteachers and social workers and other "civil servants" treated like money-grubbing, self-centered individuals. They're not leaving family behind for months on end, but quite often they're choosing less money, dangerous conditions, and the same moral injury I see in my veteran students.

I don't have any deep answers or even organized thoughts on this. But if you have served, I wanted to thank you for the effort. Even when I disagree, I appreciate the effort. And if I act like I'm military-bashing from time to time, I apologize for it in advance. I'm trying to work through my strong thoughts on this, and sometimes they're too strong to be offered up politely.

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