Let me be clear from the get-go: I have absolutely no personal experience of the raging sorrow and enveloping fear and screaming slice-and-dicing reality of combat and the wounds sustained by those who have lived and outlived it. I have no experience: Imagination is mere arrogance, however it grovels and praises and thanks.
Zip. Zero. Nada. Nothing ... that is the extent of my bona fides. I can rightly be accused of being as oozing liberal wimp. I might wish I knew more and combat vets might wish I knew more, but the fact is, I don't know more, however much I may blubber and fume. Yeah, I was a pencil-pushing spy for three years, but I never was in overt combat.
But that doesn't mean I can't allow myself a rasher of wrath.
Today is Veterans Day -- a time to remember those who were lost to combat and war and other widespread insanity and self-congratulation.
There are no doubt many ways to remember those who fell in the old men's wars that sent young men to die and be horribly scarred. I am thinking of only two of those ways: 1. Service and 2. Servitude.
The bunting is on display here in the U.S. and in other countries around the world. At first, this date marked the ending of World War I -- the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of the eleventh month. Peace, so to speak, broke out. These days, with so many subsequent combat missions in the past, World War I is just one among the many markers set by old men who seldom if ever put themselves in the line of fire, however much their fingerprints are on the trigger.
Service -- yes, we honor the sacrifice, and sorrow for the loss and wish we could weep the tears young men were constrained to weep. God, I am so sorry. It must be said that young men are not without their enthusiasms for the kinship wars welded. Like those waving the flag along the parade route, they too would like to come away with something (like peace) that made some sense. But when they recall what cannot be escaped in the dead of night, "service" is not a bulwark that holds up well.
Service -- blessings be upon it.
But that service has another name that fits as well -- servitude. The old men who concoct and conjure wars have always sent others to do the dirty work they convince themselves is warranted. The law of the land is the law of the battlefield. Let the kids do it ... they're enthusiastic enough and stupid enough to be led by their elders ...whose children seldom serve. It is in the old men that the levers of power and policy reside and it is they who exercise their "good judgment" and waste the children instead of insisting they grow up straight and sound and peaceful. True, peace is a more daunting mission because it means so much more than 'the absence of war.' But if the old men cannot exercise their good judgment in the name of nourishment and peace, will someone tell me why it is not they, rather then the kids, who should be cut down.
Servitude -- in the service of money and lip-service glory: Do we want our kids to grow up to be a mewling merchant willing to sell off patrimony for the blood of sons and daughters? Yes, the old men can hold the young in thrall and some of those young people will join up enthusiastically ... but let's check the finger-prints on the triggers of this world and deal with the evidence as it deserves.
Servitude has been tried. It even works. But its capacity to nourish decency and principle ... well, bring on the feudal past... and never imagine that service and servitude are the same thing.