I was reading a little note in history this morning that sparked my thinking. It was the story of how Washington D.C. was born; a place that didn’t belong to any state, and was federally controlled. Apparently it all started because of unpaid bills; particularly because a large majority of the soldiers in the revolutionary war never got paid. In one military camp in 1777
George Washington (a general at the time) wrote that more than a quarter of the 10,000 men stationed there were suffering from malnutrition and did not even have shoes. Not surprisingly they died. The stories of how much the soldiers from the revolutionary war suffered are startling really. Many of them used their own money initially because they weren’t getting paid and by the end of the war many were destitute and sometimes in debt themselves. Once discharged from the army many of them faced debtors prison. So a group of soldiers from Pennsylvania mutinied and marched to Philadelphia to demand their wages from congress. The state of Pennsylvania refused to use the state militia to defend congress and sided with the mutineers. The mutineers joined with troops in Philadelphia and surrounded Independence Hall 400 strong demanding their wages. Though angry they never opened fire or killed anyone. Congress refused to submit to them, considered them dishonorable and instead congress simply fled. Eventually they decided that they wanted congress to convene in a place that did not have to depend on the states for their safety. Thus Washington, D.C. was born.
In addition to finding this historical fact interesting, it made me realize that we haven’t changed a whole lot in regards to our attitude towards those who fight for us. Although I am a pacifist, I am also compassionate. I wrote a blog post before about how I don’t really understand why anyone would choose to have someone else tell them who they should kill, that doesn’t mean I think soldiers deserve to be treated inhumanely. And the fight for independence from an oppressive state is a just cause to fight. But I look at the 40 years of history and see how soldiers were treated after Vietnam and after our most recent and ongoing conflicts and it is clear that there is a fundamental disregard towards the soldiery who do make great sacrifices. And don’t get me wrong, I am not one to believe that all military are heroes or that there aren’t people who aren’t heroic in other walks of life. This disregard I speak of is not the rhetoric of clueless hippies who would spit on a veteran or jeer at them and call them killers, but I am talking about the disregard from those who would get them to fight and yet not suffer the same fate that many of the soldiers go through. Soldiers going without proper nutrition, proper equipment, proper medical care after or during their service should be the shame of any civilized nation (and don’t worry I’m sure the U.S. is not alone in the treatment of soldiers).
Although not a shocker it really hit home, that with but a few exceptions, politicians are the true cowards. Whether the conflict be just or not, they move the soldiery like pawns to where they want and then, fight the battles that they deem important (whether supported by the general public, or sometimes they lie to the general public to justify the conflict) while never depriving themselves of any of their needs. I think back to those congressmen fleeing Philadelphia, never having to worry about their pay, their nutritional needs, despite the debt they had racked up for the fledgling country. And nothing has changed since the country’s inception, including the fact that we still rack up massive amounts of debt for these military ventures. John Fogerty’s song “Fortunate Son” is an excellent reminder about how even the children of those in congress were protected from going to war, while those that are poor are considered expendable and cannot get out of the draft. I will never understand how
those we elected to serve the people enjoy so many more privileges than those who they send to fight the wars that they deem necessary. Maybe that’s why I have such a hard time understanding why someone would join the military because who wants to fight for a group of politicians, who for the most part demonstrate less honor and nobility than they expect you to have as you kill for your country? Why should one sacrifice their one existence on this Earth for somebody who is unwilling to do the same, but is happy enough to send you to fight their battle? Either way it seems to me that we should be taking care of our veterans properly. Those politicians who treat the soldiers like pawns are easily replaced. In fact that’s kind of the point of democracy is that politicians can and eventually will be replaced for one reason or another and the country will go on. Thus there is no additional value to their life than is there is to the soldiers and vets. And on a final note, let’s do something about the large amount of poverty, income inequality, weakening education system and deteriorating infrastructure so that those soldiers can at the very least feel like they fought for something. I am not taking sides politically, I think the issue of taking care of those who need it the most is one that crosses party lines. I am exhausted watching politicians speak rhetoric, distort the truth, outright lie, and play games while the world burns around them only to see them get pay raises, most of their expenses paid, receive kickbacks from lobbying groups and essentially walk away from Washington far richer than when they walked in. So you can be mad at the Michael Moores or the Seth Rogens for their comments about the military (of course those comments are misinterpreted) but the ones that truly don’t really care about those that fight their battles for them are in Washington, D.C. – the city built to absolve themselves of responsibility to their military.