Sunday, May 30, 2010
The U.S. Military and "Freedom":
Memorial Day 2010
A lot of people I respect repeat the idea that it is our military that makes us free. Let me disagree.
Every government needs an army. For the past few decades, we have been able to fight several wars with an all-volunteer army and a growing number of "military contractors", which used to be called mercenaries when I was growing up in the now quaint 20th Century. This strategy makes wars very expensive and we have the choice of high taxes or high deficits. For the most part, we have been choosing raising the deficit over raising taxes.
When I was growing up there was something called the draft. It existed when my dad was growing up and when his dad was growing up. In fact, until Afghanistan and Iraq, we never had a war that lasted more than a few months without the re-institution of a draft.
It was the most disgusting Orwellian nonsense to say we were "free" when every able-bodied young man could be forced by law to take a job at low pay that had a significant probability of ending his life. Young men who successfully avoided the draft are looked on as cowards after the fact instead of what they truly are, people with a strong sense of self-protection. Republicans mock people like Bill Clinton, Democrats mock Dick Cheney and the guys whose family connections got them into the cushy National Guard service like Dan Quayle and George W. Bush. The fact is the system sucked and it always did, and it stunk of corruption all the way back to the Civil War and even before.
My dad was a draftee. He survived Korea, due in no small part to landing a plane that had a wing shot off by enemy fire. He did everything he could to make sure his sons would not be drafted. He helped my brother Michael get a deferment on medical grounds, since Michael was allergic to penicillin and had injured his leg in a motorcycle accident. The draft became a lottery in the early 1970s, and the last drawing in 1972 concerned men born in 1953. I grew up worrying about it, but I never faced the draft and the war was winding down by the time I was of age, so I faced a very different situation compared to what my dad and older brother had to live through.
Here's to the young men who never had a chance to be free, indentured servants our government treated worse that pack animals. Here's to the draftees cut down at Vicksburg, the poor doughboys sucking poison gas in France, the drafted men who died fighting the Japanese island by island across the Pacific or died fighting the Germans village by village across France and Holland and Belgium. They died in the cold of Korea and the fetid rice fields of Vietnam. They died before they had the right to vote or legally drink a cool beer. They were enslaved boys and never free men, and we did this to them and pretended we were free.
Let us always strive to remember the world as it actually was, not the nonsensical nostalgic neverland the unscrupulous try to sell to us. Here's hoping on this Memorial Day that my nephews and their sons never have to face the situation their older relatives had to endure.