Our civilian attitude toward our military
I've been following the latest story of "anti-military bigotry" displayed, this time, by the San Francisco Board of Education (via Instapundit and Michelle Malkin), which voted last week to abolish the Junior ROTC program from the San Francisco high schools. I was just about knocked over by this quote from one of the anti-ROTC activists:
"We don't want the military ruining our civilian institutions," said Sandra Schwartz of the American Friends Service Committee, a far-left pacifist organization that routinely condemns American foreign policy and opposes JROTC nationwide. "In a healthy democracy . . . you contain the military."
Those on the left are often ambivalent, if not schizophrenic about the military (or perhaps Rangel is just being--gasp!--disingenuous). But so many of the anti-war activists on the left seem to agree that anything military should be banned from all of our schools. When it comes to the subject of war or the military, these activists seem to feel their ideas should be tyrannically imposed upon all and alternative views should be squelched.
But then, facts tend not to matter to smug ideologues like Schwartz and Kelly, who are free to parade their contempt for the military because they live in a nation that affords such freedom even to idiots and ingrates. It never seems to occur to them that the liberties and security they take for granted would vanish in a heartbeat if it weren't for the young men and women who do choose to wear the uniform, willingly risking life and limb in service to their country.
Interestingly, this dichotomy of views seems to be no new trend, but is a long American tradition. Yesterday I came across old newspaper coverage of the 1923 dedication of the newly-constructed Memorial Hall in Salina, Kansas (of all USA-heartland places) and was fascinated to read that evening's speech delivered by Frank McFarland, department commander of the American Legion from Topeka:
It is a wonderful thing to build a memorial and an inspirational thing to build a military memorial. In this building is commemorated all the good that comes out of war. There is bad in every war—many things which we would like to forget—and yet there are lots of good things which we must not forget.
In stone and steel and cement you have written here the best that is in American history; you have written a history that all who come may read. You have erected a living memorial that all men who pass may be reminded of the cost of war, of the responsibilities of good citizenship. It will not do for us to forget what our government has cost us and it will not do to forget the duties of citizenship. We have had a great many forgetters, the profiteer who fattened at home, the slackers who perpetrated a fraud on their conscience, the women who considered the war an irritating thing that interfered with social pleasures and the pacifists who made the conscientious objectors and the tramps seem like heros.
There are people who say now that the American Legion is fostering war and teaching the children to look forward to another conflict. That is not true. The American Legion wants this nation to do all that is honorable to keep out of war and yet it teaches its children ‘If your nation does go to war, you go with it.’ If we forget this war, another will be easy. It is only by remembering the horrors and cost of the wars gone by that another one can be averted....
The call of war time is the call to arms. The call of peace times is in service. The American Legion is trying to serve, through this era of peace. The meeting place of democracy today is the meeting place of halls where former service men, from any war, meet. There men meet as man to man, without distinction of class or rating. They meet as they met on the battlefield, every man rubbing elbows, and the only test a man’s real worth. To forget war is to forget the lesson of democracy, for that is where it is taught....
It strikes me that Sandra Schwartz's assertion that "in a healthy democracy you contain the military" is a totally misguided and wrong understanding of the nature of both our democracy and of our military (she is probably thinking of your typical third-world tinpot dictator's military). In this country we are not divided between the "citizens" and the "military." We citizens are the military, and vice versa. Rather, in a healthy democracy, it is the people themselves who make up, govern, guide, and support the military (excepting, of course, people like Sandra Schwartz). The volunteer military, such as we have now, is the ultimate expression of a healthy democracy's self-protective arm.
All of us need to acknowledge the job our military does for us, and the necessity for it. To think we can possibly abolish war by abolishing our soldiers is more than wrong--it's insane.
We American citizens need to step up to the plate and remember and honor our military and even our wars and the lessons we learned in fighting them, and the costs they and we as a country have paid. We do not need to, and should not, sweep under any "politically correct" carpets our history, our current obligations as citizens, or alternative choices on campuses for our young people.