Grandpa’s funeral isn’t the best time for someone to point out his secret drinking problem to family and friends.
Similarly, Veterans Day isn’t the best time to publish a screed against the sometimes-well-meaning, sometimes-facile culture of loosely-defined patriotism that permeates American media and feeds public opinion about what our enlisted men and women do, without question, on behalf of all Americans.
But Salon’s Justin Doolittle went ahead and did just that today, serving up a rant against corporatist professional sports leagues that recruit high-profile athletes and events for their crowd-pleasing, patriotic agenda.
Some of Doolittle’s arguments make fine points, taken out of context. “Freedom has become one of those politically charged terms that means whatever people need it to mean,” he writes.
Hard to argue with that.
But that’s immediately followed by this:
The “freedoms” most Americans think of when they hear the term are enshrined in constitutional and statutory law. They are in no way dependent on the size, scope or even the existence of the U.S. military.
As a Platonic ideal, sure: freedom exists independently. But for people to live free – that takes fight.
The majority of Americans are privileged to live as civilians, removed from the real implications of what happens when someone wants to take by force that which others possess. That’s a testament to the global appeal of the American dream, and to the efficacy of that dream for those of us fortunate enough to be born in the United States of America.
Statutory law enshrines nothing when the rule of law cannot be secured through the defense of the people who live under the law. The Constitution is itself only as vital as our Nation’s will and ability to preserve its sanctity for the people who’ve inherited its promise of opportunity and freedom. The sad and frightening threats to our Constitution that emanate, increasingly, from the seat of American power demonstrate how insidious a thing it is to confuse the perception of freedom with the real thing.
People who have served their time in the military aren’t perfect; they’re flawed human beings like everyone else. Many of them live with flaws that stem directly from the emotional, intellectual and physical scars they sustained during their time in service.
What powerful men are doing to our Nation – and to our military – is troubling. But today is not the day. Ideology aside, today is not the day to take on companies that send out feel-good signals in support of our fighting forces – even if those companies’ motives have more to do with dollars than with patriotism.
Veterans are not the target today. Veterans Day is a time to say something nice; to do something nice as an honoring acknowledgement of those who’ve fought in the U.S. military.
If you don’t have something nice to say; if, in fact, you have something pretty nasty to say about the military; about patriotism; about the rah-rah culture that stands up for our troops, go ahead and say it.
Just say it tomorrow. The spotlight isn’t yours today. It’s a cheap move to try and steal it on the very day when no one should be looking in your direction.