"Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Paul to the persecuted at Philippi (2:5-11)

11 November 2011

Veterans' Day, Prosperity, and Just Not Getting It.

We get told a lot that we should support our troops. And I'm on board with that. But as a GenX American, I don't have any clue about how supporting our troops is accomplished. It doesn't seem to me that waving our flag and rah-rah'ing America supports much of anybody except our self-congratulatory self-esteem, self-serving feelings.

Everyone's pretty clear that hollering "bring them home" isn't support, although I'm pretty firmly convinced that wasting their lives in foolish wars is neither supporting them nor preparing our country in the event a not-so-foolish war breaks into our common life. But in an all volunteer army, I can see how shouting "bring them home" is almost insulting, how it says to the manliest men America has that they're not able to figure out what is a wise use of their lifeblood and what is a fools errand.

In wars of old the people rationed stuff. Maybe that's part of the problem. We have too much stuff. Civilians don't have to sacrifice for our troops. And it is all too clear to those who are risking and sacrificing daily that we wouldn't, as a nation, be willing to sacrifice. We're glad to have a military class go off and sacrifice, we have people to do that, daaaahling.

Yellow Ribbon Girls are a sweet organization that sends useful stuff to soldiers, like sunscreen and snacks and encouraging letters. I guess that is support and I'm sure its appreciated. But it seems kind of paltry compared to the Greatest Generation's war rations and rubber drives and so forth. And how many people have even heard of the Yellow Ribbon Girls? Yeah. Figured.

I don't know. I think its cool that we have an all volunteer military. I don't believe that countries that can't muster an army without coersion have any business going to war. A volunteer army is a passionate army and that's the stuff real leadership is made of.

But I don't believe that most of the wars we fight are just wars or even "protecting our way of life" these days. Our leaders seem to expend life foolishly, though I admit that they know much that I don't know. I know I would never have sent men off to fight and die in Korea, if I'd been alive in the Fifties, but I also know in that hindsight that's 20/20 that the US Alliance with South Korea bore tremendous fruit on that penninsula (and my youngest kiddo is part of that fruit).

I do have little patience with the icon going around facebook right now that says "Thanksgiving is a day when we pause to give thanks for what we have; Veterans' Day is a day when we pause to give thanks to the people who fought for the things we have." Way to trivialize our lives to our stuff. I hope nobody ever feels called to fight and die for my "things."

I'll admit, I don't say the Pledge or wave the flag. I have one allegiance and my earthly country isn't it. But I do think we can do a heck of a lot better as Christians in loving the people who are called to the military life; men who feel the need to put their lives on the line (whether we think foolishly or not) for the sake of others. But I look around me and I see a bunch of people who wag flags around (and make them into such things as shirts and swimsuits... is patriotism really about wearing your flag on your butt?? That makes no sense to me!) and hoot and holler but sacrifice nothing and love little.

And frankly, I just don't get it.


  1. Thanks for this, Tara, and I appreciate your thoughtful reflections here. I do say the Pledge and, on occasion, wave the flag, but certainly our deepest allegiance is directed to another shore. I would note that one of the unfortunate down-sides to the all-volunteer military has been an increasing divide between those who serve and their families and those who don't. When I turned 18 in 1971 I and every other senior (male) in my high school class had to stop by the Selective Service Office and fill out the form to get a Draft Card. Rich and poor, black and white. In every corner of the community there would be the families and loved ones of those who were serving. I think since we moved to all-volunteer the general trend has been that large segments of our community become so disconnected from the armed forces that they begin to think about "them" rather than about "us." If they think of "them" at all.

    I'm not suggesting that there aren't some really positive aspects to all-volunteer. And I don't think it would be politically a viable option to re-populate the local draft board. (Besides, the military itself is downsizing at the moment, and even volunteers are having a hard time enlisting if they don't fall into some specific skill-based categories.) But there are multiple sides to the situation --



  2. Yeah, Bruce, I see your point. But I think the problem is not in whether or not the military is a corps of volunteers (I think all young men still have to send in that draft card when they turn 18) or draftees. I don't support a draft (ever... its slavery and I think makes it too easy for Congress to choose war) but I do think you're right about the basic detachment. I suspect it is a symptom, though, of a more pervasive tribalization of America. Once upon a time, America went to war as a country, now as a class of warriors. Why? Because entire segments of the population have insulated themselves from other entire segments of the population. There's no longer one nation, but many tribes. If your view of the military is colored by media and not relationship, it is by nature going to be skewed. If its colored by relationship (here and now relationship, not just "my dad was in the military" (he was... if he hadn't been in the Air Force, he probably would have gotten in some serious trouble in his youth) but today kind of "I know those guys" relationship.) That's what you had; but a draft will only fix the military side of the symptom (and at greater cost to national security, liberty, and morale) and not the underlying problem.

  3. I didn't think of it until I read BR's comment, but it is true that with no draft, whole segments of our society are removed from personal involvement in these wars.

    There is another disconnect - in our government. There’s a big difference between leaders who have experienced war and those who have not. George Bush was a Navy fighter pilot in WWII. His Gulf war had limited goals. When they were acomplished we came home. He was criticized for that. “Should have finished the job.” they said. Since 1993, our presidents have not experienced war first hand and they have gotten us into situations with no clear goals and no defined end points.