Is Veterans Day REALLY the appropriate time to publish an article claiming that those that have served our nation don't protect our freedoms?
The folks at Salon think so, and published a piece Monday with the astonishingly inflammatory headline, "Stop Thanking the Troops for Me: No, They Don’t 'Protect Our Freedoms!'”
Freelance author Justin Doolittle - who writes for other such "esteemed" sites as Truthout and CounterPunch - is uncomfortable with so many professional athletes showing respect for the troops:
We discover that Brooklyn Nets star Paul Pierce is incredibly grateful, at a deeply personal level, that the men and women of the U.S. military are willing to “protect” him and his country (“I’m so thankful that they are able to do that for me, to make this a safer place for me to live”). Roy Hibbert, starting center for the Indiana Pacers, sees Pierce’s gratitude and raises him in a big way, making the latter’s sentiments seem woefully weak by comparison:
They’re protecting our country, they’re protecting the world, and, you know, obviously we wouldn’t have freedom without them.
This is just an extraordinary sentence. It contains three distinct, factual claims. While the first two are highly debatable, let us suspend consideration of them in order to focus on the third, which is actually an outright falsehood. Not only does Hibbert confidently assert that “we wouldn’t have freedom” were it not for the beneficence of the U.S. military, but that this is “obviously” so.
Doolittle isn't just annoyed by NBA players expressing such sentiments:
Often, the spectacle of public gratitude to the troops reaches comically absurd proportions. During the 2013 World Series, Bank of America, that beacon of patriotism and benevolence, sponsored an initiative called “Express Your Thanks.” For each photo, message or video submitted that expressed thanks to the military, the bank donated $1 to nonprofits that support service members, veterans and their families. On the program’s website, several such expressions are highlighted, including, most prominently, a message from Melissa, who, on behalf of her family, offers thanks to the troops for “safeguarding our freedom.”
So why do such sentiments irk Doolittle?
The undercurrent of all this is that “support” and “gratitude” for the military and those who serve in it is intrinsically apolitical. It’s just something that all decent Americans understand and respect. This approach serves a very important purpose, which is to further blur the lines between patriotism and support for the military. Americans of conscience who do not “support” the troops, particularly those who volunteer to fight in wars of aggression, are not allowed a seat at the table in this paradigm. Their existence is not even acknowledged, in fact. These are “very different times,” in the words of Yastrzemski, and our society has progressed to the point where such shrill voices are no longer relevant.
Supporting the military, though, and expressing gratitude for what the military is actually doing around the world, are nothing if not explicitly political sentiments. To suggest otherwise is fundamentally dishonest. It reduces sincere dissent on these matters of such tremendous consequence to our culture and our politics to nothingness.
Doolittle goes on to say that it was wrong for Bank of America to hand out flags to attendees of game one of this year's World Series in Boston because it "assumed that each one of the many thousands of people in Fenway Park that night did, indeed, feel thankful for U.S. troops."
And, in case you were wondering, Doolittle didn't like the show of support for the troops at Sunday's NFL games either.
This led him to conclude:
We need not thank the troops for every breath we take. When we do, we reduce our entire existence as free people to something that only exists at the whim of the U.S. military, and suffocate critical thought about the military and what it’s actually doing in the world.
I guess Doolittle missed the obvious: once a year around the occasion of Veterans Day, we Americans proudly show our support for those that risked their lives for our nation.
Does that mean everyone has to? Certainly not.
But if you watched the people at Fenway Park a few weeks ago waving those flags, many with tears in their eyes, one thinks there probably were few in the audience offended by the display of patriotism.
The same is certainly true of the NBA and NFL games this week where veterans were honored.
Without question Doolittle and folks like him are quite in the minority in their lack of support for the troops and their offense during such displays.
They are of course entitled to such feelings, but why express them so inflammatorily on Veterans Day? Maybe more importantly, why did Salon choose to promote such a piece on this day?
Truth be told, when I first saw it at Weasel Zippers, I was inclined to ignore it because Doolittle is an unknown freelancer contributing to a variety of relatively unknown perilously liberal websites.
But when I saw that Salon had pinned his piece as the number two article at its front page, I decided Salon had to be called out for promoting this detritus on the day our nation collectively - and that means liberals, too! - should be taking the time to thank our veterans.
If a person can't do that for just one day of the year, how can he or she really be an American?