Today is Veteran’s Day, a day where we commemorate soldiers who have put their life on the line by buying things at 30% off.
In all seriousness, the best way give respect to anyone is to be honest. Not to just say the polite stuff you’re supposed to say, but to have real conversations instead of empty platitudes.
Now there are 2 types of soldiers and it’s important to make a distinction between them. One are soldiers who were conscripted into the army. These soldiers had a choice: Kill or be killed. Join the army or go to jail. While it may be true that even conscripted soldiers could have gotten out of it by being a conscientious objector, there is no guarantee there. Veterans (and those who didn’t make it) who were conscripted into the army, especially the rare cases of those who morally objected but still couldn’t get out of it are victims. Morality ends where a gun begins. Conscripted soldiers are like taxpayers. Both taxpayers and conscripted soldiers are using their resources which end up killing people. All the violence and bloodshed government commits is only possible because people pay their taxes and if one is going to blame conscripted soldiers for being part of an engine of mass murder, the same should apply to the taxpayer (though to less of a degree since a taxpayer only indirectly contributes to people’s death, whereas a conscripted soldier may bomb a bunch of people himself). Since no person is morally required to martyr himself, those who force people to harm others are the real aggressors whereas those who are forced to participate in the harm are the victims. To use an extreme example, if someone threatened to kill someone unless he raped someone, the person who performs the rape is not a rapist, rather he is raped too. The one who forces a person to commit heinous acts at the barrel of a gun is the real rapist. Even the Nuremberg Trials recognized this fact by only prosecuting those Nazis who administrated acts against humanity, and not those who were threatened with death to become Nazis.
The second type of solider are those who volunteered for the army and a different moral standard applies to these types. These soldiers were not forced to join the army, they were not conscripted. Such a person is not like a taxpayer, but like a person who pays more money to the state than is legally required. Such a person is not forced to engage in acts which cause destruction and carnage, but rather voluntarily chose to engage in those acts himself (or herself; women are no less vicious than men). Such a person should be treated like the people they are. They should be viewed as mass murderers and if they didn’t engage in killing themselves, then like the driver who helps the bank robbers escape. They are morally culpable for choosing to engage in a profession they knew would involve killing people or helping other people kill people (even a voluntary medic is morally culpable since by healing a killer allows the person to continue killing once healed). Such people are not heroes, no matter what the mainstream might say.
Repentance is always possible and those who are young and stupid and then realized that they were young and stupid but had made amens, such actions should be taken into account. If people are never given a chance to do their best to correct their mistakes, then what’s the point of trying to improve one’s behavior? Those who volunteered for the army because they were poor and desperate and needed college money, or who fell for the propaganda, dazzle and glitter, but then later in life have chosen to dedicate their lives by speaking out against the army may deserve to wear the label of not being totally unredeemable. While it’s easy to speak out against something that you are no longer apart of (which is why heroes is not a label I would give them), at least such people have decided to wake others up once they realized how asleep they were.
Soldiers such as Smedley Butler are examples of soldiers who spoke out against the racket that is the military. Such volunteer soldiers as Adam Kokesh are other ones. While veterans such as Adam may have volunteered for the army, once they experienced it and saw for themselves how dehumanizing it is, they decided not to keep quite. Chelsea Manning may have volunteered for the army, but once he realized the corruption that existed he risked his life to expose people to the truth, which in my view makes amends for the fact that he volunteered to be part of a criminal gang. Being ignorance is a good excuse from being morally culpable, but once one has an opportunity to not be ignorant and chooses instead to either remain in ignorance or sweep abuse under the rug, they don’t deserve praise, but scorn by those who are morally superior.