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11 November 2011

On Veterans Day

Here is my confession: I feel pretty ambivalent about celebrating, or even recognizing, Veterans Day. Too often, Veterans Day commemorations become valorizations of war, violence, and suffering. If we are going to observe something like a day for veterans, it should be a time of deep mourning and inward reflection, not the days of shallow thank-yous that it has so often become. Ultimately, we shouldn't need people to die "for us" or "for freedom." Granted, we live in an imperfect world, and there have been times--perhaps--when limited violence was necessary to end greater injustices (although, as a pacifist, I find that dubious).

A few days ago, my wife and I were watching the evening news while eating dinner. As it often does, the edition ended with a human interest story. This one spotlighted amputee soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan. I did not find the coverage inspiring or heartwarming. Instead, I saw it as just horrible, horrible that other human beings have been killed and maimed in my name. I would never ask that of another person and feel that it is profoundly unjust of us as a nation to ask this of others and then to placate ourselves by taking 1/365th of our lives to superficially recognize that sacrifice.

Does that make me more of less of a patriot?

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