I’m going to start this post with a little family history: both my grandfathers were veterans of WWII. My mother’s father served in the airforce; he fought in North Africa and Europe. My father’s father was in the Navy and Marines. He was stationed in the American territories where he tended the sick and wounded.
My maternal grandfather’s main “war story” was of gaining his future college tuition by cleaning out the doctors in a North African hospital at blackjack. He had a photographic memory and was capable of “counting cards” as it is called today.
My paternal grandfather was fluent in German, and after the War was over, he helped process refugees by serving as their chaperone and guide in New York City.
I am a pacifist, and also very passive by disposition. I am also Buddhist, and I hold to the value of ahimsa. Yet warriors are I believe the most human of us, because they have seen humanity at its worst, and also its best. I almost said “I could never be a warrior” but I know that is a bald-faced lie. Everyone has it in them to fight, to kill even.
What I say next is not going to be popular: we should not place our veterans, our soldiers, our warriors, on a pedestal. The current valorization and glorification of the military in US society erases the humanity of…human beings. And in many cases they are human beings who need help and support.
Yellow ribbons and bumper stickers, black flags and parades mean nothing, ultimately. Say “support our troops” all you want. That means nothing. None of it can feed the hungry, house the homeless, comfort the grieving. You want to support the troops? Don’t support war.