By Ian Tingen
As an American, I believe that way we talk about sacrifice for our country is possibly one of the most hamfisted national dialogues we have. Veteran’s Day is a particularly acute instance of discord; as someone with friends and family in the military (most of whom are still alive, thankfully) I have a healthy respect for service. My respect goes beyond those who died – I am just as adamant that we should help those who came back crippled physically AND mentally. Even so, I believe that there have been innumerable sacrifices by civilians: if not always of limb, then definitely of life. Regardless of service, I believe it should be honored – and that to honor service of one sort doesn’t require the derogation of another.
Imagine, then, when I came across the photo above, posted on Facebook in multiple places. Here’s a veteran of one of the messiest wars the US has been in, a member of the famed Big Red One, protesting the service of others and using it (and a child) as a platform to elevate his own. It certainly gave me pause.
A few things occurred to me while I considered the photo. First, there are quite a few similarities between this man and Dr. King, despite the salt and sour of the note. This veteran knew his enemy – they were often designated by the color of their skin. Skin tone figured heavily into the struggle of Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement (CRM), too. Doubtlessly, this veteran watched people die – good people who deserved better. I can point to any of a number of circumstances where the same thing happened to those in the CRM. I have no doubts that this man Clickbait Patriotfeared for his life while engaged in combat – another thing felt by many people involved in the CRM. In some distinct ways, this veteran probably has a close experiential kinship with Dr. King, whether he knows it or not.
There are a number of differences between this man and his target of derision, too. This vet’s theater of combat was in a foreign land; the front lines of the CRM were on domestic soil. When the veteran came home, his conflict may have still been in contention, but it ended. Today, we still have to deal with people who are actively trying to disenfranchise minority voters. If this man was drafted, he had options to protest if he saw the draft as unjust; no person of color can opt out of the injustice they face.
Of course, these observations all seem rather blatant to me – I am left hoping that this note is nothing more than clickbait for the easily roused. If it is, call me a sucker. If it’s not, color me livid.