Another year brings another Holiday that makes me slightly uncomfortable, the honored Veteran’s day. This celebration makes me uncomfortable because it requires unquestioning admiration for causes that I don’t fully endorse. Phrases like “Keeping us safe from” and “preserving democracy for” assume that the cause of the vets was some noble defense of personal freedom.
This Veteran’s day provided yet another example of the kind of things that make me question this socially unquestionable holiday in the form of a special about Vietnam on the History channel. This special was part of a series running all morning to commemorate the day. I watched a bit of it before it was time to start my own family’s veterans day celebration and was bothered by the same things that always bothered me about this war, the simple question: “But why?”
All dads I know experienced this war. Even if they weren’t conscripted to fight in it, they were always thinking they might soon be. The Federal government gave itself the right to force you into a war for reasons you couldn’t quite grasp. Years later, we still really don’t.
Containment, a ridiculous crusade to prevent the spread of communism, is offered as the reasoning behind the absurd, 20 year war there (that’s right 20 years, plus a few extra meddling before outright combat). Sucked into a NATO state of mind the US ran to aid the French in some ridiculous far off colonial issue they were having in the 50’s with some local rebelling against colonial rule. After a serious drubbing the French went to the peace table and drew up a nice document that temporarily divided the now independent country into two, until the people held a nationwide election uniting the factions.
Scared of the possibilities of actually implementing Democracy, particularly a communist victory, the US refused this arraignment and installed a puppet government in South Vietnam. From there we entangled ourselves in both a civil war that had nothing to do with us, and a cold war hot battle for ideals that really didn’t have to be at murderous odds.
So this is what a generation fought and died for? Some vague French colonial uprising, then a civil war between some small Asian population and their conflicting philosophies, to finally a struggle to preserve some Cold War paradigm? When I hear people say something along the lines of, “thank a vet for preserving your freedom”, I cannot help but think of not only Vietnam but almost every war in recent history. How many were fought for something you might call “Freedom?” If you name anything in the last ~60 years (for argument’s sake) you are lying or misinformed.
The result of every one one of these wars has consistently led us to a little less freedom. It’s all very confusing. The wars in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Younameitstan, are all the consequences of meddling in affairs that we shouldn’t have, both morally and logically. All wars, dare I say, that we should not have fought.
This is not a critique of servicemen (or women). I have the utmost respect and gratitude for doing a job I would never do and giving up so much time at home with your families and friends. This is certainly not a jab at veterans who have endured scenarios I’d rather not even imagine. It’s a reminder that while these people may be heroes, it’s not just because they fought the state’s battles.
Our way of life is not only preserved by military action, it is preserved by education and diligence. Thanking a veteran for preserving your freedom is misleading and gives credence to the warfare mentality lie that is, without these wars, we’d be less free. I do not mean to discredit any veterans’ efforts, just the state war schemes that sent them there in the first place. I just do not want people to buy the warfare state message that our freedom comes from war; the result is often quite the opposite.
Thank you to all who have selflessly served, I hope us civilians can show you our gratitude by getting the bosses to stop putting you in harm’s way. After all, Veteran’s day really is Armistice Day, a celebration of ending wars. Let’s celebrate like that again.