Complex Gratitude for Something That Should Have Been Unnecessary

They shall beat their swords into plowshares,
And their spears into pruning hooks;
Nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
Neither shall they learn war anymore.

Isaiah 2:4

… but I still will not / drive through Georgia with New York license plates.

from “On the Civil War on the East Coast of the United States of North America 1860-64,” Alan Dugan

After the Battle of Corydon, the Confederate wounded were taken to the Presbyterian Church for nursing, where they reportedly bled on the pews. Also reportedly, some of the women of the congregation made sure their neighbors knew they had their shotguns on hand, lest anyone get the idea that Christian charity was a little too good for Morgan’s Raiders.

More Veterans Day poems at Poetry Foundation.

A review of Once a Warrior – a memoir of surviving demobilization

David French, “My Decision to Serve”

I find repeatedly that I have complex feelings around Veterans’ Day. I am proud of people who are moved to “serve their country” and protect their fellow citizens and who enter the military as a way to fulfill a noble calling. That seems admirable.

But it seems to me that, more often than not, we – that is, I suppose, the citizens of this nation generally and collectively, which is in a way no one, and in another way is the people who actually make the relevant decisions, and then in yet another way is all the people who don’t pay much attention to what’s done in “our” name or say much about it or exert much influence on it, like me – more often than not abuse those idealistic motives by giving them ignoble or actively immoral tasks to perform. That seems wrong.

Have any of the wars fought by the United States of America in my lifetime actually had anything to do with “the defense of freedom”? That seems questionable.

I don’t know what we do about any of this. But being honest about the complexities involved seems like a prerequisite for whatever that might be.

Updated 11.11.2022; originally published 11.11.2019

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