Every American alive today has lived through America’s involvement in a war. Everyone. Call it “war” or a “military action,” it’s the same outcome bolstered by rhetoric to justify our heading out the door to help or harm. We like to keep these things thousands of miles away from the kitchen door.
Don’t get me wrong, if you’re attacked you have the right to defend yourself. But our national tendency to go picking a fight makes our carrot and stick diplomacy more stick than carrot. No matter what you hear, history bears witness to this: America is always spoiling for a fight.
When politicians sit in Washington and tell us their decisions are good for America and help to keep us free, let’s take a step back and look at the defense budget, the giant maw digesting tax dollars at the expense of social programs and education. It begs the question about what our national identity truly is and what our legacy will be. The fact is we spend so much money on either making war or getting ready for the next one, there isn’t much left over for the rest of us.
And there’s another price to pay. One that isn’t factored into the cost of materiel. It’s the personal cost. When you see someone you love damaged in mind and body, you tend not to be a fan of war. You turn down the flag waving adrenaline.
Which brings me back to why. I understand a desire to serve your country, to protect it and eliminate threats. My family is a military family. And I understand there is a price to pay. But that doesn’t stop me asking why we put such effort and resources into something horrific.
We glorify war and consider those who oppose it to be milquetoast wimps incapable of true patriotism. The storyline goes: if you don’t have a strong military in a state of constant readiness or flexing its biceps around the globe there might not be an America left to celebrate the Fourth of July. Let freedom ring.
I mentioned that we’re a military family. I know what it looks like and what it feels like to have a father so injured mentally and physically in war that he was labeled 100% disabled. I grew up visiting him in a VA hospital eight months out of the year and stood by his grave when he died at the age of 52. And I know what it’s like to worry about a son deployed and to work for the military and watch troops return to their families. And to go to Walter Reed Army Hospital and see the physical and mental cost to a generation of young women and men.
There’s a human cost to be paid for the decisions made in Washington. I am opposed to war and saber rattling and spoiling for a fight. Opposed to any military action that is not undertaken as a direct threat to our safety, my safety, your safety. Not the manufactured perception of threat for the sake of justifying our actions but a real threat that lands on our doorstep: U Boats in the harbor, planes over Pearl Harbor. Not “The Russians are coming, the Russians are coming.”
When the people do not question what their leaders are doing or seek to remove dangerous and potentially unstable individuals wielding power like a child’s rattle than the world becomes a sandbox for the few at the cost of us all.
Photo credit: Joe Alberici, the author’s father.