There is absolutely no disputing the fact that 2020 has been the most challenging year in recent memory and probably the most challenging year ever for the majority of the population under the age of 70. The Presidential Election is over and what should be a period of relief and healing is being dragged on as a period of tension, hostility, and behavior that is counter to the American cornerstone of democracy…a peaceful transition of power.
Let me get this out of the way very early and be very clear, I DO NOT CARE WHO YOU VOTED FOR. This is not a political piece, it is simply meant to evoke moments of reflection and thought in hopes of inspiring Americans to come together and tone down the ridiculous claims and vitriol expressed by a small portion of the country.
Veterans Day was established as Armistice Day on the 11th day of the 11th month to commemorate and honor those brave men and women who fought and died to win World War I. It is celebrated in Canada and many European countries as Armistice Day or Remembrance Day, which I personally feel is more appropriate in keeping with the intended purpose of the original holiday. The name itself is not important, but the meaning and purpose of this day is. It is a day of remembrance. It is a day to pay our respects to those men and women who have paid the ultimate price in far flung countries and battlefields across the world and through the decades. It is also a day to honor and pay respects to those Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen, and others who served and survived to return home bearing the physical and mental scars of the hell that is war.
There has been a lot of saber rattling and chest thumping from self-proclaimed “patriots” in the channels of the internet and social media in the lead up to and following the election about the “boogaloo”. For those who might be unaware the term “boogaloo” refers to the general act of preparing for war against a tyrannical government and/or potentially initiating a second American Civil War. I have done my best to bite my tongue and ignore the childish rhetoric and actions of these select few, but on the eve of Veterans Day it felt appropriate to address this topic.
A very popular Thomas Jefferson quote that is often touted by the same people who propagate the boogaloo agenda states that “the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants”. Let me be clear, I unequivocally believe this quote and it’s meaning is absolutely true and paramount to the success of the American democratic experiment, however I do not believe our government even remotely resembles a tyrannical regime in need of being overthrown. In regards to the blood of patriots, the tree has been well fed for the last 20 years with blood of our young men and women who have sacrificed for the 99% of the population who has not and will not put on a uniform. I do not mean that statistic as demeaning or insulting, it is simply the truth. The nature of an all-volunteer force is that the burden of that sacrifice continues to fall on an extreme minority of the population who agree to pay the price for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness up to and including their lives.
Those who like to thump their chests and shout the loudest are mostly misguided average Americans with no military experience or affiliation who like to spend too much money on tactical gear. Those who have seen war and the hells it inflicts on the human mind and body are quiet because we understand the full scope of consequences a second civil war would wreak on the country we swore to defend. The first Civil War left between 1-2 million Americans dead. That is 1-2 million sons, daughters, husbands, and wives that were killed largely for differing beliefs in a country whose fundamental creed is that all people are created equal. It turned brothers against each other. Friends against each other. Neighbors against each other. The reality of what a war on American soil against Americans would look like is so far beyond the comprehension of an average American that the utter atrocities and destruction elude even those who claim to want a civil war. It is not lost on those who have served. Those who have seen hell would not wish it on anyone and it is why we remain quiet and hope the better angels of the American psyche will triumph.
It is one thing watch your friends die, get blown up and lose their limbs, bleed out in your arms while you scream for a medic on a nameless city block in the desert or a barren mountainside in Afghanistan. It was in the job description as a known occupational hazard when we signed the dotted line to Uncle Sam. Bringing that reality home to the shores of America, to the country so many sacrificed to protect from the dangers of extremists, terrorists, fascists, and dictators across the world over the last 244 years, is an entirely different beast. The public would never sleep soundly in their beds again. The basic functions of democracy would cease to exist until one side claimed victory and hopefully established a democratic government. The simple truth is almost nobody, I will not speak in absolutes, is ready to watch their loved ones be maimed, die, or have their homes and life’s work seized or destroyed over a disagreement between politicians. Furthermore, if those Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Airmen were forced to fight American citizens that is a genie we cannot put back in the bottle. The violence we train our servicemembers to inflict is not meant to be inflicted upon our citizens, we have laws that prohibit it because our British colonizers employed those tactics against us and it runs counter to our democratic ideals.
So, here is my call to action for Veterans Day in a year unlike any other. Take the time to reflect on how truly lucky we are to live in a country where we can disagree with each other and the government free of consequence. That right is not free, it was earned through the blood and tears of servicemembers and it is maintained with the blood and tears of servicemembers. The beauty of America is that you have the right and the ability to voice your opinion, protest, vote, march, etc for any cause you want. Those freedoms have been protected by men and women of every race, color, creed, and religion under the sun because they were all united in their love for our nation and what it stood for. Honor them and their sacrifice by taking the time to learn how to be civil with those of differing opinions. The divisive tribalism of our current politics is only hurting us and will only continue to erode the dream and vision of America that so many have fought and died for.
Lastly, thank a veteran for his/her service. Listen to their stories. Check on your veteran friends and ask how they are doing, many of us still carry the demons and scars of war and trying to remember why we are still living can be extremely tough. Watch a movie or read a book about war so you can have some small glimmer of insight into what some of us are dealing with. Educate yourself on ways to help veterans in your community. Most importantly, do not let the country we suffered and died for go down the tubes over a political squabble between two old men. The government we swore to protect is for the people and by the people. You are the people and you have the power to heal this country into the shining beacon of hope it can be.