Debate With a Solider

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From a reader in LA comes this account at a debate of his debate with a soldier who claimed he was defending our freedoms.

To be brief, the debate was about the morality of having U.S. troops continue to be garrisoned in Iraq and Afghanistan. I took to the mic and pointed out that we should not have been there in the first place, and that the ONLY sane, legal, and moral thing to do was get out. A young soldier in the audience stood up to protest my position using the standard boilerplate sloganeering we’ve come to expect from the Cheney-O’Reilly-Hannity-Limbaugh-Beck crowd. At the end his tirade which included Neocon gems like “I fight for your freedom” and “we’re there so we won’t have to fight them here,” I offered the young warrior the chance to give me the name of the group who was trying to take my “freedom” away from me. He stumbled for a moment, then (almost shouting) stated “those people hate you and would as soon cut your throat as look at you.”  I told him my question was “who was trying to take my freedom from me,” NOT “who was trying to cut my throat.” He then said “are you going to let them get away with 9-11″?  I replied, “who is THEM, young man?”  I told him, “if you are suggesting the Iraqis had anything to do with 9-11 then you are woefully misinformed.” After going back and forth trading salvos (actually, it was just about me debunking one boilerplate statement after another), he really got my ire by grabbing the collar of his shirt and stated “It’s people like you who disgrace MY uniform.”

At this point, I never had so much clarity descend upon me. It was like some power reached into my brain and told me what to say. Without even thinking, I said, “Let me tell you something, SON! I know ALL about the service, even if I was never in it myself. My entire family on both sides has served in a military at one time or another.  Both sides of my family fought for the Confederacy, my grandfather fought in France in WWI, My father was a decorated Marine, and my Uncle is a Bataan Death March survivor. So, I’m no stranger to the military. However, I can tell you this, you are ALL WET about WHOSE uniform that is and WHAT IT MEANS! My father, who was a peaceful and gentle man, came home from WWII with the Navy Cross and a revulsion of war — as did my uncle. They both became staunch advocates of non-interventionism and a belief that to defend your own shores is the highest calling. Anything else is simply premeditated warmongering. I learned many things from my father, but the most important thing he ever told me about being a soldier was this…,and I’m going to pass it along to you.

That uniform you wear is MINE! I ALLOW you to wear in on MY BEHALF. It belongs to ME and represents MY WISHES. If you DISHONOR IT, you dishonor ME! And if I SAY you DISHONOR it, then there is no question YOU HAVE.  Every deed you do while in MY uniform reflects on ME, either GOOD or BAD. And, if you deny anything I just said, then you are NOT an ‘American Soldier!’

I did not enjoy putting this kid in his place, but I have seen this swaggering demand that “our” troops have for our unconditional and fawning deification of the military. I respect the military and those who serve to a point. After that, however, they must earn any additional respect.  And, so far, “our boys” have lost mine.

9:27 am on April 3, 2010