A List of Things Americans Do that Get their Soldiers Killed
I’m always made uneasy by the blind idolatry (different than respect) of our military men and women. When the little old lady goes out of her way to interrupt a soldier’s meal to thank him for his service. Yes, we must respect and support those who protect us. However, did you know that protecting our nation isn’t the only job that needs doing? Did you know that being a soldier is also a job? Did you know that police officers, fire fighters, ambulance drivers, doctors, nurses, lawyers, and government workers also protect us? All of them do it at great, but varying, peril to their own safety. Then, of course, there are all the other jobs that help make America the best it can be. Journalists, scientists, teachers, caregivers, professional drivers, construction workers, architects, inspectors, customer service agents, and even artists are all necessary to keep civilization running smoothly and keep us all healthy, safe, and protected in various ways.
Yet, we make sure to make ourselves feel better about soldiers dying by looking up from our copy of People (where we were reading about a reality show star’s wedding plans) by giving them platitudes. I get it. We all feel helpless to express the true gratitude to the people who are doing the job that most of us can’t imagine doing. The job that scares us all the most: going into a foreign land and putting ourselves in extreme danger. It’s the stuff of nightmares. So we thank those who do. And, to their credit, I’ve never heard a soldier reply, “You’re just saying that to make yourself feel better.” No. They always, politely and respectfully, thank the person for thanking them.
Here’s the problem. If you truly want to thank a soldier for their service, you can do it by changing your ways. Because we civilians have much more say in how many of our soldiers go off to be killed than we want to believe. Our behaviors are always partially responsible for whether or not other human beings will be sent into harm’s way and how much they will be protected when they are there.
Here is a list of things that we, as Americans, do that get our soldiers killed.
Fetishize them— We put them on a pedestal. They are somehow different than us. And, yes, they are in many ways, but they are also just like us in very important ways. They don’t want to die. They have families and friends who love them. They have a strong sense of right and wrong. They are human. They have good and bad motivations for the choices they make and the actions they take. They are not cartoons, reducible to a simple picture in your head that, once thanked, can be forgotten about until the next time you see one. “Oh look, a solder!”
Continue to be arrogant— It is hard to see that other people are as smart and valuable as we are. It takes effort some days to have true empathy. But if you want humanity to be humane, you’ve got to constantly remind yourself that other people, in other nations, with other beliefs, are equal to us. We, in America, were given a pacifier over two hundred years ago, to keep our infant nation happy in our isolated, abandoned place on Earth. That pacifier has been the belief that we are the greatest nation on Earth. In a lot of ways we are. But in a lot of ways, other countries are. Depends on what you want out of your country. And chances are, if you’re not in a completely horrible place, what you want out of your country is the only thing you’ve ever known a country to be. Don’t assume America is always right. That creates unnecessary conflict that is our fault in many cases. Which leads to soldiers going off to a possibly unnecessary war that will usually get them killed.
Continue to be greedy— You do know that we are the wealthiest country on Earth right now, right? Did we get there because we were the most industrious? Partially. But we also stole a lot of stuff, killed a lot of people and enslaved an entire race. And due to all the criminal activity of our forefathers, we have stuff. We have a lot of stuff. It is our duty, if we want to be a moral country, to at the very least be aware of our privilege and behave accordingly. You can grasp with all your might to your things and your way of life, ignoring that others don’t have it as good as we do, and you can twitch every time someone tries to take it from you. That sounds weak to me. I don’t want to be that country. I don’t want to be broke either. I want to share. If that sounds like we can only lose in a deal like that, because, after all, we already have more than everyone else, you’re seeing this wrong. Sharing allows everyone to have everything when they need it. And you only need your stuff when you need it, right? Continuing to grasp greedily onto your material possessions leads us to feel threatened when we really aren’t. It allows us to be defensive when we needn’t be. It allows us to send troops in to protect stuff. Which gets them killed.
Refuse to learn— Some people are happy being willfully ignorant. It keeps you a member of the groups you’ve always been a part of. I know that it’s difficult to better yourself in the face of ridicule, but you should. Choosing not to know something is easy and fun but it leads to making rash decisions that send our troops into conflicts that are our fault. And that gets soldiers killed.
Continue our addiction to convention— So many in our country have no sense of history or context. Many think that it is as it should be right now and right here because this is how it has always been. If they just picked up a history book or even Googled anything about the way things used to be, they might be surprised to know that, right here, right now, is different than it has ever been. And it will all change again very soon. No need to defend a way of life when it will, just as a function of time, ultimately transform into a new way of life without you noticing or caring. The times they are always a’ changin’. Trying to preserve the way of life of your state in 2019 is a fool’s errand and refusing to see that will cause you to make choices that will lead to troops being sent in somewhere unnecessarily and some of them will die. Then, next year, you will change your mind about your way of life.
Lazy thinking— Many of us don’t like thinking too long or hard on any problems. We have other things going on. However, there are things that need to be considered more deeply than “What’s for dinner?” and “What’s on TV?” and “Does this outfit make me look like Chuck Norris?” Some problems, when your opinion is needed, are important and require your attention. Do we send troops here or there? Ask why? What is the proposed outcome? What happens if we don’t? Is it just our pride that gets hurt? Is it our reputation? Damage to pride or reputation have two different sets of ramifications. Are we reacting from a place of childish emotions? There’s a lot to think about and if you are now saying, “That’s too much to worry about? Sometimes you gotta just get shit done!,” you are being irresponsibly lazy in your considerations of what should be done. That might just get a soldier killed.
Devaluing of science— You know science is a way of knowing something, right? It’s not a competing religion to the one you choose to follow. For those that worry that believing in science is UnChristian and UnAmerican, think of it this way: the religion of your choice tells you what your God did, science explains how God did it. See? Two different things! Easy.
Okay, now that we got THAT out of the way, let me just say: we need science. It’s one of those intellectual advantages that humans have that helps smooth our path to a civilized society. (If one likes, one might say that science is a tool given to humans by God.) Science is a tool that we can actually use to reduce suffering, to make work easier, to prevent catastrophes, to recover from catastrophes, to create alternative ways of doing things. Science even proves exceedingly good at reducing scarcity of resources, one of the great causes of wars in human history. Humans are always struggling over resources. Killing each other over land. Killing each other over food, access to water, technology, and fuel.
If we focused on using science to make things easy for every one, the preconditions that work as an incubator for war would fade away. (Weird thought: what if we used science not just to create weapons but to defend our soldiers or to render them obsolete?) But no, we feel like we have to yell loudly that we “Believe” in our country or our God to the exclusion of science or even reason itself. This actually causes soldiers to be forced into wars to die.
Devaluing of Love— I capitalize the “L” in Love on purpose. Love is the point. Not the economy. Not jobs. Not identity, racial, national, ethnic, gender or otherwise. The only point is Love. For some reason, Americans, while claiming to be a Christian nation, are a temple full of money changers. There’s a reason why Jesus flipped over those tables and chased the money changers out of the temple with whips.
When you believe that pure, unregulated Capitalism is the only legitimate way to run a country, you cannot also say that Love is at the top of your list of priorities. Money is. Possessions are. And then you defend your stuff instead of Love. You defend your land instead of Love. You defend your nation’s status instead of Love. Then, you create targets which kills other people (in case you are interested in that). This unnecessary creation of targets can lead those targets defending themselves, which leads to you becoming a target. And soldiers go off to die.
Criticize those that correct them— You understand this one. Being reactionary instead of humble. Always proclaiming instead of ever listening. This causes or maintains conflict. Which causes soldiers to go off to die.
Equate dissent about military options with lack of support of troops— The only real option any civilian has to protect the soldiers we purport to support, that we love to say we love, whose hands we shake in front of onlookers, is to be careful where we send them. Don’t just get insulted when the nightly news or cable news outlet of your choice reports that someone stepped on our toes or the toes of an ally.
As awesome as America’s power is and as admirable as it’s ideals, it is not infallible. There is no guarantee ever that every soldier will get to come home to make one of those tear-inducing videos of reuniting with their six-year-old at their school assembly. Each and every time we send troops out, we are absolutely asking them to be willing to die. So don’t make that decision like you’re drunk at a bar, shouting at the television, watching your favorite sports team. And absolutely do not shoot a concerned citizen down for asking, “Is this absolutely necessary?” It is our duty, if we actually give do care about them, to make sure we have considered every possibility that will not get them killed first. Then, as a last resort, we send them in.
These are some of the things we do, in our defense of self-image, in our defense of half thought out ideals, that kill soldiers. If you truly “support our troops”, don’t placate yourself with moments of “I shook that guys hand and thanked him” or “Hey look! A soldier! I’m gonna go talk to her.” More than likely, unless you share their experience, you’re not helping as much as you think you are. It might be a nice moments or a good pick-me-up for the soldier and you but there is a down side. By telling yourself that, by doing that, you really helped, you are less likely to actually do anything of substance to protect them from the basest drives of humanity.
Isn’t it a bit hypocritical to thank them while you’re killing them with your behavior? I’d say it was. There are other things our military can do to continue to build this great nation. I’d love it if making war was a much smaller percentage of their job, though. I’d love it if we could, by being more rational and responsible in our thoughts and actions, help to prevent as many of their deaths as possible. Did you know you had that power? Well now you do.