I’d like to take a few moments to debunk a meme that’s working its way through the American press and the American psyche on this “most sacred” of days. It’s this: “Thank a veteran for the gift of freedom.”
I implore everyone to never forget this fact: Veterans are NOT responsible for the freedoms we as American share and, moreover, freedom does not come at the end of a gun barrel. EVER. If you’re inclined to believe that freedom can be imposed from the outside, just think about Viet Nam and Afghanistan for a few seconds.
We definitely should honor our veterans for their service to our country’s interests at home and around the world but we should never allow ourselves to believe that the use of military force has given us a single “freedom.” The “gift of freedom” is one which we reward ourselves via our civil legislative bodies and our hard work through social, democratic activism and initiatives. Period.
Our freedoms are “won” because of the courageous work of individuals and organizations who strive everyday to expand our democratic franchise and labor strenuously to deny success to those who would work to restrict or deny the liberties and freedoms that are enshrined to all of us in our Constitution. Our men and women in uniform have very little to do with this process.
Want to thank someone for your freedom? Thank the ACLU. Thank Americans United. Thank the Freedom From Religion Foundation. Thank Rosa Parks. Thank MLK. Thank the scores of brave individuals throughout our history who have challenged the efforts of the religious and political right to deny us the freedom to think, speak and act as truly free people.
Marriage equality did not materialize at the end of a machine gun or a JDAM. It was realized because of the many brave souls who stood up to say, “ENOUGH! We demand our right to live as first-class citizens just like everyone else!” Those pesky little signs proclaiming “FOR WHITES ONLY” didn’t disappear because the Marines were pointing a gun at business and public service doors.
Never forget it.