Memorial Day

Today is a day to honor the fallen soldiers who died in service to our country. We don’t stop to think about that anymore. It’s not a public holiday like it once was, military service being something that a small percentage of the population is touched by, we are comfortable with our disconnect from the wars that we are constantly fighting. This holiday has different meaning for me because I come from a long line of soldiers. People that I know fought because they loved so much. My generation has talked of soldiers and our military as if it glorifies violence. I am sure there are people in our armed forces who enjoy killing, there are sociopaths everywhere (CEOs, anyone) but the vast majority do it because of their love for something and their desire to take part in the American dream.

We’ve gotten rid of the draft and have a professional military and now we don’t have mass protests against our foreign adventures. We feel comfortable in some circles demonizing soldiers because “they have a choice” but every time I look at a social institution and see such disproportionality like our military I start getting suspicious of how much free choice we actually have. The professionalized military has allowed an elite to feel like their hands are clean of their choices. Like mob bosses, they can send someone in to do their dirty work for them and maintain the image of civility. I have a huge problem with this because it absolves the individuals responsible for our foreign actions and places the blame on people who don’t deserve it. It makes the elites (myself included) a bunch of cowards who never have to really stand by the courage of their convictions.

There are causes and people I would die for. I hope I never get asked to do that, but most of our poor is asked to do that on a daily basis in some capacity or another. If its not to fight wars, it is to survive with their dignity intact and their children safe in areas that we made unsafe. It’s a level of intensity that I feel and people I know with privilege don’t have and it is part of what makes me a little insane. But it also makes me very conscious, aware and alive. We seem to have a social structure that is engineered to make sure that the elites never face the consequences of their actions and as the last few years of the recession have that us, that is incredibly dangerous. I was told as a kid that in America, if you work hard and are talented, you can succeed, that we have a democratic meritocracy built to reward people for their work. I was told that if my family was poor it was our fault because we didn’t work hard enough. Never has the system been so rigged. I see it in the drug wars. I heard countless people at Stanford blame poor kids for bad choices only to watch them do drugs and be bailed out by mom and dad. People asked me why the poor have children so young and then no one batted an eye if a girl got pregnant in college and needed an abortion. The same people that are happy to say that the failures of the poor schools reside on the backs on the students and parents and teachers, are the same people who never allow their child to be treated like criminals and who have the cultural capital to ensure that their kids get kind treatment all of their lives. The same people who defended the Stubenville rapists, calling them kids who were growing, called the young girl in question a slut, responsible for the oppression these other “kids” had perpetrated. Sometimes I feel like there is such a giant gap between the rich and the poor that we are no longer a society or a democratic community. We are leading parallel lives, no longer part of one American culture. As an American, especially as one who has watched so many people sacrifice for their country it breaks my heart.

P.S. A huge thank you to my brother and sister, my great grandfather, and all the people from my high school have served. Your honor and dedication and commitment makes me want to be a better human being and I can never thank you enough for what you have done for our country and your families.