On Veterans

The argument can be stated as such.

  1. If you are willing to risk your life for a worthy cause, then you ought to be recognized by others for doing so.
  2. Enlisting in the military is risking your life.
  3. The military exists to defend a nation.
  4. The defense of a nation is a worthy cause.
  5. So those people who have enlisted in the military ought to be recognized by others for doing so.

I find premises 3 and 4 to be questionable, for many reasons, but that isn’t my point here. I have friends and family who are veterans and I care about them very much, and I believe they joined the military because they believe in premises 3 and 4, that’s my point.

Today is Veteran’s Day. A day in which we give thanks to all of the people who have served in the Armed Forces. How do we thank them? By having this day! Where everybody who is off of work sits around and thinks about how great all those veterans are, wherever they may be. Maybe we post a picture of grandpa and Uncle Joe on the internet with a caption about how proud we are. In the meantime, 40,000 veterans will be sleeping on the street tonight, almost half of those being veterans of color, and another 1.5 million veterans are on the brink of joining them. I wonder what they think about Veteran’s Day?

The government spends more than half of its money on defense. This is in a country where if you want to have your baby in a hospital you better have cash, and you better get your ass to work the next day. A country where you have to spend $80,000 to get a job that pays $40,000 a year. A country where vast amounts of people are struggling to survive off of food stamps that are under constant threat of being taken away. We spend so much money on defense, in lieu of so much else, and yet we let even those who served in that respect suffer once their tour of duty has concluded.

For today to mean much, it needs to be backed up by a system that takes care of those people who believed in 3 and 4 so much that they abandoned the possibility of an easier and more stable life to prove it. In a perfect world, today ought to be a day that we remember those ancestors of ours who fought in wars that actually meant anything. The fact that this nation constantly produces new veterans without really explaining what the hell anybody is fighting for is ridiculous.

So, an election already happened, so I can’t really encourage you to vote. Even if I did, this isn’t an issue people make paramount to their campaign, though those candidates in favor of strengthening social services are the closest. If I have any advice, I suppose it’s to not just let days like this drift by. Today is meant to be a day to reflect on the sacrifices of veterans, so let’s do that, but do so in a way that lends itself to action. It isn’t the sacrifices that veterans chose to make that ought to drive our reflection, but the veterans who have been sacrificed by the very nation they sought to defend.

 

 

Quotes of Thomas Paine

I am not currently up to the task of either summarizing or analyzing “Rights of Man” by Thomas Paine, which I read recently.  A few quotes, very few given the number of powerful and entirely relevant passages available in this work, follow.

“It suits his purpose to exhibit the consequences with their causes. It’s one of the arts of the drama, to do so. If the crimes of men were exhibited with their suffering, stage effect would sometimes be lost and the audience would be inclined to approve where it was intended they commiserate.”

“Man did not enter into society to become worse than he was before, or to have fewer rights than he had before, but to have those rights better secured.”

“Man can be kept ignorant, but he cannot be made ignorant.”

“When it is laid down as a maxim that a king can do no wrong it places him in a similar security with that of idiots and persons insane and responsibility is out of the question.”

(Italics on that last quote are mine, I’ll tell you that I added them because it seems as though Thomas Paine was talking specifically about the insane idiot that is currently the president of the United States, just in case that wasn’t clear).

 

 

The Trolley

In your town a bridge crosses an expanse of railway tracks that lead to a terminating depot. Often people stand on the bridge, watching the trains roll into their final destination, or take off again. It is not the majestic scenery of the nearby mountains or lakes, but in the context of a city, for those appreciative of the massive capacity of humankind for producing infrastructure, it is nice to look at.

One day, early in the morning, you are walking across that bridge. It is nearly empty, a rare event, with the lone observer sitting upon the railing of the bridge, his feet dangling over the tracks. Not an entirely safe position, but the man is clearly an adult, an impressively sized adult at that. A giant almost. You edge over to the railing yourself, so as to see the tracks, and you stop. Your heart seems to skip a beat. Down there, as if in a Dudley Doright cartoon, are children tied to the train tracks. Five of them. Screaming for help.

“Holy shit!” you scream.

“I know.” says the other man.

A train is approaching, it’s horn blaring. At this stage it does not move quickly, but neither can it apply the brakes quickly enough to stop before hitting the children, and regardless of its speed the impact is going to end the lives of each child. In a blur of thoughts one seems to ring out a little more clearly. The man is sitting directly above the track, and the combination of the frantically screeching brakes of the train and the weight of the man might be sufficient to save them. Why is he sitting there anyway? Why didn’t he call for help right away? Did he tie them to the tracks? There isn’t time to ask, you either push the man, surely killing him but saving the lives of the children, or you don’t, and the children will die.

Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock.

 

(to be continued)