Memorial Day is A Lot Like Abortion
We sure love us some veterans in America. Just ask anybody if they support the troops and you’re guaranteed to get a high-five (possibly a high-ten) and a “hell yeah.” American flags decorate every single bumper on the road. Red white and blue hats bob through every aisle at the grocery store. And Memorial Day cranks all of this up a notch, creating an atmosphere of idolatry shown through reverential bows and red carpet treatment to everybody who’s ever served in any form of the United States military.
Well, not really. However, Memorial Day is certainly the most performative display of military support that our country sees. It’s unfortunate that it’s all complete bullshit on the level of “right to life” supporters that oppose abortion with every fiber of their being while simultaneously not giving a shit about said baby the moment it’s born.
It’s easy to have ideals. It’s a whole nother thing to actually act upon them — especially when others aren’t looking.
And that’s the whole problem with Memorial Day and anti-abortion proclamations: It’s easy to voice your support for something but it takes actual work to follow through and act upon that viewpoint.
There are very real — and very predictable — consequences to sending people off to war and banning abortions. Addressing these consequences is simply not part of the conversation.
Our country doesn’t actually care about the members of our military. We ask them to perform the most difficult job on the planet, and then we abandon them once they come home. This is nothing new. We’ve been doing it for years. We love to slap a bumper sticker on our Chevy Silverados and blast our fingers off every 4th of July, but we fall short of actually — literally — supporting our troops every chance we get.
If we cared about our troops, we’d offer the mental and physical support they actually need.
However, government-run healthcare specifically targeting our troops has fallen short year after year.
And this has real consequences. About 18 US veterans kill themselves every day. That’s almost one every hour. These people voluntarily put themselves in unimaginable circumstances because of some inborn idealized vision of our country and the measures that need to be taken to protect the freedoms we espouse from birth (but don’t actually possess). And then when they come home, their brains are scrambled from the horrors we put them through and we don’t offer the necessary help they need to cope with the trauma, which ends up making things even worse.
“Longer VA wait times lead to small, yet statistically significant decreases in utilization [of healthcare services] and are related to poorer health in elderly and vulnerable veteran populations. Both long-term outcomes (e.g. mortality, preventable hospitalizations) and intermediate outcomes such as hemoglobin A1C levels are worse for veterans who seek care at facilities with longer waits compared to veterans who visit facilities with shorter waits.”
But at least we wave our flags once a year on a long weekend.
Our collective view on the military is incredibly skewed because of our need to be seen as supporters of the troops. You simply can’t say “I don’t support the troops.” You’ll be run out of town by an angry mob with pitchforks and torches.
But here’s the thing: troops are people. And statistically, most of us are assholes. Therefore by the transitive property of algebra, some of the troops are assholes. It’s simply unavoidable. But because we have a societal need to “support the troops,” it’s almost impossible to make the distinction between members of our military that honestly want to make the world a better place, and dickheads that just want to blow shit up.
Take Eddie Gallagher, for instance. His fellow veterans said he was “freaking evil.” He killed an Islamic State captive. The guy was in restraints, and Gallagher walked up to him with a hunting knife, stabbed him to death, and then forced fellow platoon members to pose with the dead body like it was a trophy.
Fuck Eddie Gallagher.
He was charged with a war crime, and rightly so. And then what happened? He went on the news saying people weren’t supporting the goddamn troops like they’re supposed to and he was pardoned by President Trump.
But everyday veterans that didn’t commit a war crime are left to go slowly crazy until many of them end up with a cardboard sign on the side of a highway off ramp. Because we don’t actually care about the troops, we just love to say we do.
And much how people will scream that every baby has a right to life and then vote against measures that would feed and clothe that same baby once it’s brought into the world, our support of the troops is all bullshit with no substance. It’s a slogan. It’s a signal that you’re on the right team, whether you know anything about the game or not.
Memorial Day is simply the most clear example of our hypocrisy, but it’s a constant state of being for us in America. We need to offer our veterans so much more than we currently do. The very baseline requirements of this support is access to requisite medical care. That’s a gimme. But it needs to go even further to financial assistance and anything else they need to live as close to a normal life as possible.
We fund the tanks and the missiles and the guns, but we also need to fund the people.
Sticking a flag through the sunroof of your car and driving around blasting Lee Greenwood (that video is disgusting don’t watch it) is not supporting the troops. Getting drunk on a Monday and eating hotdogs is not supporting the troops. Putting a bumper sticker on your truck that says “I support the troops” is not supporting the troops.
Memorial Day is a masturbatory exercise of performative patriotism.
And just how marching outside of a Planned Parenthood with an enlarged photo of a bunch of mangled fetus parts doesn’t do anything to help children born into poverty, waving a flag on Memorial Day doesn’t positively impact our country’s treatment of the members of the military as a whole.