Military veneration is so deep rooted in our culture that it perhaps is the only remaining issue to maintain legitimate bipartisan support. In fact, you can add one more to the saying, only two (three) things are certain: death, taxes, (and steadfast support for the military).
Devoid of dissenting voices to chip away at this exploitive institution — along with its cousin, religion — it’s a force of predation jammed down our throats from childhood. Its compliance is achieved through relentless propaganda, and it’s dangerous.
Military idolatry isn’t reserved for Veterans Day. It’s present at halftime shows and seventh-inning stretches. It’s lurking before previews at your local movie theater. It’s evident in posted discounts at restaurants and exclusive lounges at airports. It’s displayed through commercials on television and sponsored road races on the weekend. It’s strewn together in statues, parades and official holidays. And like sitting during the National Anthem, if you dare speak out against it, you’re bombarded by insults and face gratuitous intimidation and/or violence.
It’s easy to gauge the depth of public brainwashing by the vitriolic responses elicited with any slighting of the military. The deeper the rage, the more indoctrinated the individual. And how can I blame them with the marketing scheme we’ve encountered each day of our lives?
They’ve convinced us that “serving our nation” entails voluntarily relinquishing our autonomy. They’ve bamboozled us into thinking in boxes like “us versus the enemy.” They’ve employed words like “terrorists” to demonize the other side, while our side is applauded as “heroes.” They’ve mislead us to believe that dying for our country is “selfless” and “brave,” while fighting inconsequentially for the politics/politicians of the day. They’ve designed addictive video games, enticing naïve teenagers toward a lifestyle of death, destruction and psychological illness. They’ve invoked terms like “unit cohesion,” “ultimate sacrifice,” and “higher calling” to justify discriminate policies, to rationalize avoidable slaughter, and to allay parents anguish when their child returns home in a flag-draped box. They’ve deemed 18 a proficient age to make a contractual decision that binds us and demoralizes the rest of our lives.
The same batch of politicians responsible for the war(s) can change their minds on a whim, trivializing “service” and cutting benefits upon reentry. They’ve brainwashed us by asserting we’re fighting for “freedom,” while contributing to its deterioration. They’ve advertised “glory” and “strength” in an experience replete with severed limbs, suicide and post traumatic stress disorder. They demand our obedience and respect, while deleting our human inclinations in favor of robotic submission.
I could continue ad infinitum.
I concede it’s unfair to neglect the positive elements of the military. I acknowledge and appreciate these underreported works of relief, development, technology, etc. undertaken by certain branches of the military. Unfortunately, those aren’t the goods sold to the public and that’s not the “work” many troops experience.
Speaking out against the military doesn’t imply malevolent wishes toward it — actually quite the opposite. I earnestly wish for the expedient return and safety of American troops. By personally rejecting the military-industrial complex I might influence my friends and their friends from conforming to this rapacious institution. Through my personal boycott, I’m issuing a statement that I refuse to submit to the overwhelmingly manipulative instrument of war. A boycott that ultimately (I hope) will transcend my small world and extend from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific.
We’ve been robbed of innumerable lives and memories. We’ve been duped by phony promises, ambiguous policies and evocative speeches. We’ve been indoctrinated by a sophisticated media machine without a balancing, more forthright perspective.
We’ve been robbed of the truth. Maybe “we can’t handle the truth,” like Jack Nicholson said in “A Few Good Men.” Or maybe, learning the truth would awaken our stupor and cease our blind reverence.
Conor Shapiro is a graduate student in the School of International Service and a liberal columnist.