I got a "friend request" yesterday on Facebook. She's a good person and I like her a lot, and I "friended" her. The first post I saw from her was something "thanking" GIs for their service and I thought, oh, fuck, yeah.
And I thought; y'know, I reeeeeeally need to be nicer when people "thank me" for being a GI.
I have a problem with that.
For one thing, I didn't do it for anyone other than my own selfish reasons. I certainly didn't do it for anyone's thanks. I did it for my own fucking entertainment and adventure, had a rollicking good time doing it (peacetime soldiering is kind of like that, if you subtract the chickenshit, the boredom, and the bursts of outright fucking goatscrewlicious fucktardry), was well paid in the process, and my time in the Army had about as much to do with your "liberty" and "freedom" as an extra in the Vivid Video production of Backside To The Future has with the Virgin of Guadalupe.
It's not easy keeping my piehole shut when someone "thanks" me for running around on the government's tab. The sort of reflexive soldier-tongue-bathing that has become customary in the Second Imperial era of the United States kinda gets up my wick.
It's just meaningless words, for one thing, like the "bless you!" after a sneeze, but it's not just the meaningless words. It's that most of the people thanking me - those I know, anyway - do little or nothing to actually thank those men and women whose service has left them damaged, as service in war tends to do. They don't help in VA hospitals, or help out homeless veterans, or seek to comfort the widow and the orphan or bury the dead or succor the living.
They don't try and learn anything about those who have died; who they were, why they served or where they were killed and why.
Don't get me wrong. They're lovely people. They just have other things to be and do and the actual effort to find out who these people were and why they were where they were when they died would be asking a lot of their busy lives.
But they want to "thank" someone without doing all that hard work.
So it's a combination of irritation at the emptiness of the gesture...and irritation at the sense that the person making the gesture is making it instead of doing the hard work to make it less empty.
I want to snarl something like "Don't thank me...I didn't fucking do it for you!" and then I feel like a shitheel for wanting to say that. These aren't bad people. They just don't...know. And I'm not sure I know what to do, either about them, or about the way I think about them
But I have a suggestion.
If you see a guy or gal with a service stripe - however you know they've served, and in whatever capacity - first thing; buy 'em a drink and drink to their continued survival. They're making it, day by day, and goddamn if that doesn't deserve a toast, regardless of whether they fought like Chesty Puller or never did anything but shoveled shit in Alabama.
Here's to us. Who's like us? Damn few, and they're all dead.
Drop around the local VA and see if there's anything you can help with.
Read a newspaper. Hell, read two. Check out a couple of websites - make sure you get a good variety of political opinion - and read up on the places where your country might send your friend, or your neighbor's kid, or the guy at the bus stop to fight, possibly kill, or die.
If you read all that stuff and come to the conclusion that it'd be stupid, bone-stupid, preternaturally box-of-rocks fucking-shoveling-water stupid to send any of those people to fight, possibly kill, or die in those places because of the immense likelihood that their fighting, killing, and dying will do nothing more than fuck up a place that's already fucked up fifteen ways...do something about that:
- Vote against the douchenozzles that try and stampede you and your neighbors into sending those Americans to those places. Refuse to be "terrorized" by nonsense about Islamic headcutters driving their pickups across the Atlantic Ocean to hide under your bed. That'd be stupid. If you want to thank me for my service? Don't be stupid.
- Find out if your Congressperson or Senator has voted for wars and rumors of wars...and at the same time cut funding for the VA, or for things like PTSD treatments, counseling, or military pensions. Find out if they're part of the MICC - the "Military/Industrial/Congressional Complex" that votes funding for ridiculously expensive weaponry or bloated military budgets without inquiring what all this tax money is going for (audit the defense budget? Why, yes, that's an excellent idea...)
- Vote against anyone who tells you that spying and snooping and warrantless searches and "national security letters" are crucial for "defending America". If you believe that what you end up with isn't "America"; at least, not the one the Founders and Framers had in mind.
Run for school board. Defend a banned book. Stand up for things like free speech, even if you don't like what's being said...hell, especially if you don't like what's being said. Insist on things like the freedom from people who want you to write their religion into law, even if it's your religion and you'd like it to be the law. Hell, especially if it's your religion. Church and state, remember..? That tree suit didn't have a cross or a crescent or a wheel on it, and our belt buckle didn't read Gott mit uns. Those were the fucking bad guys. Want to thank me for my service? Thank me by not being a fucking bad guy.
All this stuff is hard, I know. But, hey...you wanted to "thank me" for my service. That service was a lot of things...but it wasn't easy.
So "thanking me" should mean more than just meaningless words. It should mean taking some responsibility for serving your country, too...in all the ways I've talked about. That's not easy, but being a citizen of a republic shouldn't be any easier than being one of its soldiers, and that means you - and I - still have lots of work to do; after all, the reward for work well done is...more work. Right?
(And, as always on the day-after-this-least-beloved-of-all-holidays (I was busy kid-wrangling yesterday and didn't get to the computer, so today is my Memorial Day post, sorry...): this.)