I’m never really sure how to react to Veteran’s Day. My anti-government views are no secret, and as an anarchist, this has clear implications on military policy. It isn’t simply that I think the military in general is something that can be abolished outright (although I do think this), but I reject the idea – as a matter of policy – that any of our foreign interventions do anything to keep Americans safe. Rather, I believe our foreign policy has a deleterious effect on American safety.
But I’m not like many anarchists. I don’t blame the soldier for the politician’s wars. I understand that there are some anarchists who revel in the controversy accompanied by anti-military statements. I understand that there are those who like pointing out the destruction caused by our military, sometimes by soldiers who openly take pleasure in the freedom to torture and kill people in these countries (because these men do exist, as unpleasant as it may be to acknowledge this). But I do not enjoy the controversy of my views, and I don’t ascribe collective guilt to all members of the military based on the terrible behavior of some of them.
In fact, contrary to what I’ve heard from some other anarchists (who simply enjoy being controversial – a quality that loses any respect I might have for them), I know that most members of the military are good people (it is the bad apples who are the exceptions, not the standard). I have members of my family and very close friends who are in the military right now, and they are some of the greatest people I know. But it is not because of their military service that they are good people, it is entirely regardless of this fact.
So how do I react to Veteran’s Day?
The easiest reaction is to not react at all. Why not just keep my mouth shut one day out of the year? This is the advice many people will give me.
“I get that you have your anarchist views, but just leave it alone on this day.”
There’s nothing wrong with this, but it still seems insufficient to me. I can’t deny the fact that there are fundamental problems related to our military presence that need to be addressed, and I think that people in the military or considering entering the service are among those most in need of this perspective. And if I acknowledge this as an important issue, is there any better day to talk about it than Veteran’s Day? Even though my unpopular opinion will be undeniably drowned out by the multitude of people celebrating your sacrifices, my silence would be a craven act, would it not?
Another easy path is to simply say, “Thank you for your service.” After all, even though I recognize that our foreign policy does not keep us safe, I also recognize that you, as a veteran, did not design the foreign policy. This is the product of the self-serving cowards in Washington. Furthermore, I am willing to acknowledge that for many of you, at least, your decision to join the military came with the intent to put your life on the line to protect your country, and such an intention is noble. Can these good intentions not, in themselves, be worthy of gratitude?
Perhaps. But in taking this route, I would be furthering the lie that by joining the military, a young man is doing something that should be encouraged. It’s an admission that you’re serving, and service is a good thing. But I don’t want to encourage military enlistment, and by offering gratitude even for noble intentions, I would be committing a despicable and destructive dishonesty.
This last point, though, is especially important. I can’t say “thank you” for service based on a lie I’m aware of, and I also can’t ignore this issue out of deference because all of this would imply that I don’t care about the veteran or the soldier. This, also, is not true.
The truth is that I care very deeply.
I care about the person who is putting his or her life on the line for the purpose of “national defense,” regardless of whether they are sold into their service on bureaucratic lies.
I don’t want any young people to sacrifice their lives or their bodies for this country’s political interests. I don’t want anybody to undergo the rigorous and brainwashing treatment that the military puts people through as part of their training.* I don’t want anybody else to suffer the psychological trauma that comes from being sent off to fight in government disputes.
In short, I don’t want there to be any veterans.
And I’m a nobody, I know. I’m a student. I work in a little retail job. Every now and then, I write something like this for the internet. Anything I say about this subject is going to piss a lot of people off, as always happens when somebody attacks a sacred institution, and it will do little to change minds.
But the two things I can do is (1) confront the uncomfortable truth that needs to be acknowledged and (2) – and most importantly – refuse to support any politician under any circumstances whatsoever who will send our children to fight in their wars.
This last point is the only thing really worth taking away from this piece. I will not be among those anarchists who collectively ascribes guilt and condemns good people who risk their lives for bad causes based on political lies. And I will NEVER do anything that requires anybody to risk their life for me, like those who “support the troops” while the monger for more wars.
Because I really do care about each and every one of our members of the military.
Finally, if you are one of those people who will support these bureaucrats and these politicians who would ever ask our young men and woman to put their lives on the line for these foreign conflicts, please do not pretend that you are supporting veterans. You’re simply the guy thanking the sacrifice for giving up her life to keep the sun rising every day. Your condemnations towards me are as meaningless as your gratitude towards them.
But it is always this person who condemns me the most for not thanking a veteran.
* I know there are many people who will call me out for calling military training “brainwashing” and accuse me of not knowing what I’m talking about because I am not a veteran. Although it is true I haven’t been through this myself, I will refer such critics to the book “On Killing” by Lt. Col. David Grossman as my basis for using such an incendiary term to describe something I haven’t experienced personally. He describes in detail the psychological training tactics used by the military to get young men past their natural resistance to taking the lives of other human beings.