If there was ever one day in American discourse in which partisan wrangling should be set aside, it has to be Veterans Day. Sadly, I know there are going to be a lot of people who get up today and wrap themselves in the American flag and contend that those who disagree with them are somehow un-American. There are going to be Conservatives who contend that only they care about the members of our military, and suggest that Liberals, and anyone else they disagree with, despise soldiers.
When I think of these people, I am reminded of the words of American novelist Sinclair Lewis, who said “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross.”
When I think of such people, I am ever the more grateful to the members of our Armed Forces; those who stand in the breach and keep American democracy alive and well, despite those who would see it burn under the jackbooted thuggery of misplaced, and misguided, fascist nationalism.
I’m sure you’ll hear a lot of saber rattling today about how some people in this country despise the American soldier. If you are a veteran, don’t listen to these people. In all my years, I’ve never met an American who hates our soldiers. Certainly, I’ve met people who have disagreed with the military aggression of some of our political leaders, but don’t be fooled into thinking that’s the same as despising the American soldier.
I am reminded of a flight I took once. While sitting in the terminal waiting for my flight to board, an American soldier wearing fatigues and a carry a duffle bag came walking down the causeway. As he came by he neared an elderly lady who was sitting in the end seat nearest the causeway. That old lady reached out and touched his arm. The soldier paused and looked down, and she smiled at him and said, simply, “Thank you for your service”.
This clearly touched the soldier. He smiled and thanked her, and went on his way. As the woman went back to reading a brochure, I realized that she had an Obama pin on her lapel. Across from that woman in another end seat a man had been reading a book by Glenn Beck the whole time. He never once looked up during this woman’s exchange with the soldier. He never noticed the presence of that soldier, as busy as he was in soaking up political ideology.
“So much for Liberals hating soldiers,” I thought to myself. And I realized that what had happened was a perfect analogy for politics in the United States. Some people wrap themselves in the flag and claim to be somehow more American then those who disagree with them. But on the ground and in the real world, it’s actions, and not political ideology and rhetoric, that make the real difference.
I am not suggesting that Liberals care more for our soldiers than Conservatives do. I’m not implying that the man who was reading that Glenn Beck book cared less than the old lady with the Obama pin on her lapel. All I’m saying is that if anyone tells you today that any group of Americans cares less about the American soldier than another does, you would do well to reject that notion.
In the end, we all fall into our convenient categories. White. Black. Hispanic. Asian. Republican. Democrat. Christian. Baptist. Catholic. Jew. Pagan. Any of a hundred other false definitions of the human condition. But we all have one thing in common in the United States. We are all Americans. And we all love and appreciate the men and women of our Armed Forces. It is because of who you, the veteran, are that the rest of us can be who and what we want to be.
I want to personally thank everyone who has served this country. The pay sucks and the sacrifices are great. But you are the reason the rest of us have the freedom to bicker amongst ourselves like a pack of school children. It is because of your commitment to the very idea of American democracy that we have been allowed to thrive as a nation. You are a large part of what makes this country one of the greatest on Earth, and, indeed, one of the greatest is human history.
Thank you, sincerely, to anyone who has served in the Armed Forces. Thanks to you, we remain, and hopefully will continue to be, the United States of America.
~ Wicasta Lovelace