Thursday, September 04, 2008

I get it. And it scares me.

I get that John McCain is a war hero. And I get that he is a better American than I am. I readily admit that if captured and threatened with torture (let alone actually tortured) I will tell Dick Cheney anything he wants to know.

And I get that women and men who risk their lives in military service are to be honored. And while I think the best way to honor them is not to send them into wars based on lies and fabricated evidence, I know they are just doing their duty and I respect that.

But what I don’t get is why we should be allowed to exploit them politically.

Last night at the Republican Convention former Governor Mike Huckabee told a story about a school teacher in Arkansas who removed all the desks from her classroom and wouldn’t allow any of her students to have one until they could figure out how to earn one. They suggested good grades and good behavior, but she said that wasn’t it. After five class periods of deskless guessing, she told her assembled students that in fact they couldn’t earn their desks because veterans had already earned the desks for them. She then opened the door to her classroom and twenty veterans carried in twenty desks. The convention crowd went wild.

I doubt this story was true. What classroom in America has only twenty desks in it? But, assuming it was true, what was the message? If good grades and good behavior don’t earn one a place at the education table, why would someone else’s military service?

I think the idea was that freedom isn’t free. OK, but public education is paid for by all citizens not just soldiers. And if someone else has secured my desk for me, and grades and behavior have nothing to do with it, what am I doing in school? If everything of value has to do with the military then why not just make all public schools military academies and funnel high school grads right into the service? Israel does this and it is one of the most important features of their society. Honestly, such a move would end racism, sexism, and homophobia in this country within a generation, two at the most.

Listening to the speeches at the Republican Convention last night I thought I was living in ancient Sparta. Rather than referencing John McCain’s war record as a sign that he would keep us out of war, rather than pointing to his brutal torture as proof that he would stop America’s use of torture; speaker after speaker glorified war and rumors of war. Rather than use the moral high ground to be moral, they used it to excuse the immoral.

By the time last night’s political speeches were finished I imagined thousands of Republican delegates leaving the conventional hall so hopped up on war rhetoric that they would attack, torture, kill, and maybe even eat anything that looked liberal on their way back to their hotels.

We don’t honor our service women and men by exploiting them, by sending them into harm’s way for the sake of corporate greed, by allowing the wounded to languish in substandard hospitals or alone on the street, by fighting against veterans’ benefits, or by telling stupid stories about them. We honor by being an honorable nation worthy of their blood, sweat, tears, and lives. I do not believe we are that nation, and this election is scaring me to death.


Patti said...

"Israel does this and it is one of the most important features of their society. Honestly, such a move would end racism, sexism, and homophobia in this country within a generation, two at the most."

Good Blog...Rami. Not getting this though. How would a military society put an end to all that stuff?

Mike Smith and Rami Shapiro said...

Great question. I didn't mean to suggest that a military society would end these things. I was thinking that all high school kids from every background go into the army together and that being together and working together breaks down all the barriers that race, class, ethnicity, etc. build up. Collective service not the military per se is what I had in mind.

Patti said...

So Israel has no problem with racism, homophobia, class etc? Are there other countries where collective service is required? I wonder what they are like.

As you already know, being in the service today, only fosters more bigotry, homophobia, racism....etc. At least that is what my sons tell me. They are perfect, of course!! ;0)

Rabbi Rami said...

I think I am over generalizing. Israel has all those problems, but I was always under the impression that military service lessened them.

I wonder why it is that American military does the opposite? Is it because it is a volunteer force rather than an obligation shared by all citizens? What do your sons say about this?