Stop Thanking Me

Here in The United States of America it is Veterans’ Day, a public holiday held on the anniversary of the end of World War I (November 11) to honor US veterans and victims of all wars, and I’m staying in because of it. Today is the day all good citizens are supposed to remember those who served and defended our country in its many times of need. We’re supposed to honor and even venerate these people that made various sorts of sacrifices so that we might live good, meaningful, potentially happy lives. It is also the day when strong armed hand shakes and meaningful looks in the eye accompany perfidious sentiment intended to seem patriotic.

I realize that many of my brothers and sisters in arms may not share my view on this, but I for one am tired of entertaining this sort of duplicitous behavior. It’s not that I wont meet your gaze or shake your hand, I was raised to be polite, but, always at the back of my brain, is the thought, “if you want to thank me do something to contribute yourself.” That’s because at the heart of my patriotism is the notion that we’re all playing for the same team. And from this perspective there is still a lot left to do before we obtain that set of national goals.

For instance, one in ten homeless people is a veteran. That’s something like 60,000 people living on the streets for no good reason. And these people who gave so much to you are just a fraction of the total number of people, your brothers and sisters in citizenship, who also must live nasty, short, and brutish lives. This nation has a class system and these people have become untouchables. We ostracize and segregate in so many ways, but to do so because of economic solvency makes us base and without compassion. This is not a social system I signed up to defend. Want to thank me? Feed, cloth, and show some compassion to a homeless person.

In the Vice President’s speech, given today at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery, he called us the “spine of the nation.” He also calls us “the most trusted and tested” people yet the rate of unemployment for veterans perpetually exceeds that of any other demographic. The fact that this nation has unemployed people, people that want to work but who cannot find a job, seems ridiculous to me. That our economy actually forces this reality on so many and we accept this myth as truth is even worse. We’ve got a long history of solving these sorts of problems, and our nation is in dire need of large scale public works efforts. What’s lacking is the political will, the same will the propelled so many of us to our service in the first place, to get these things done. Want to thank me? Employ someone who learned to work via service instead of someone who took that time to obtain a fancy degree. Better yet, show some intestinal fortitude and resolve to create a fully employed society.

I could go on and on, pointing out all the ways in which American’s dishonor the legacy their veterans fought in one way or anther to preserve, but that’s not the point of this exercise. Rather, I’d love to make you aware that you too can contribute to the welfare of this nation. Service, does not require you to take an oath or to bear arms. No one is asking you to sit exposed on a two way range or lose a limb for the good of your country. If you want to thank me, figure out how you can help. Right now and right here. So what do I want to hear on Veterans’ Day? How about “to thank a veteran, I volunteered to help solve some problem that’s important to me.”

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