NOTE: This is not aimed at my f-list. It's not aimed at anyone in particular. This is some venting at the general population that I need to get off my chest.
So the 4th of July is coming up. I know a lot of you folks on my f-list are Americans. So am I. Hell, I'm an American veteran. Bully for me, right? I've got some sort of quasi-sainthood according to some factions of the population because I did some pushups, strapped on combat boots, blew up some shit, and buried more than one of my own guys. All hail patriotism, right?
And because a veteran like me is so patriotic (which I am, actually), I must love the 4th of July. I must LOVE watching people abuse the American flag by wearing it as a cheap Wal-Mart garment, or sitting on it as a beach towel, or wiping their mouths on it when it's printed on napkins distributed around the picnic blanket in the park. I must love the sanctimonious hails to the Soldiers, Airmen, Marines, and Sailors who "gave so much" so that the people raising their ice-cold beers can feel better about their own personal comfort. I must love the cries of "God and Country," and people's attempts to tie their religious preferences to my patriotism. And oh yes, I must love the fireworks.
Now, I don't speak for every Soldier or veteran. I speak for myself only. I know it surprises a lot of you when you find out that I not only served in the military, but I was an officer, in a command position in a Combat Engineer company. Yeah - cute, little, sweet, adorable me. How could I be trained to be that hard? Well... unless you've been there, you can't understand.
But let me try to get people to understand a couple of things on this 4th of July weekend.
1. Respect the goddamned flag. It's not a t-shirt, beach towel, picnic blanket, napkin, or fashion accessory. It doesn't go in the trash. The PROPER way to dispose of a torn and tattered flag is actually to fold it neatly, and BURN it. But for the love of Thor, when I see anyone displaying faux-patriotism by the improper use of the flag, it's worse than a slap in the face.
2. Don't TALK about how much the troops gave. How about this: instead of talk - which is cheap - try taking CARE of this nation that generations of Soldiers secured for you. Stop trashing it, wasting it, abusing it, and expecting it to keep rolling along with God-sent strength. Great nations and empires have fallen, and we're not immune. The greatest threat to national security is complacency. It's about taking care of what we've got. You want to honor veterans? Stop abusing the freedoms they secured for you.
3. I'm a veteran. I'm patriotic. I'm not Christian. Stop tying those three things together. It's offensive.
4. Fireworks. I love a professional fireworks display. But you want to know something? There are fireworks going off in my neighborhood right now. They sound like machine guns and mortar rounds to me. I hear a lot of folks in fandom talk about "triggers." Some people got pissed off at me recently because I wasn't "sensitive" to their triggers because they read something in a journal post that made them upset. Well, let's put this into perspective for a moment: You CAN turn off your computer. For the next week, if not on-and-off all summer, I'm going to be awoken to the sounds of what my brain is telling me are mortar rounds and artillery shells and machine guns. I'm going to flinch every single time, with the distinct urge to reach for a semi-automatic rifle that I don't own, load it with a magazine that doesn't exist, and take up a defensive posture in a foxhole that I never dug. I'm going to have dreams about it again. It happens every year. I'm not trying to downplay anyone else's trigger here. I just want people to recognize something they might not have even considered... while they're launching bottle rockets in their backyards and setting off firecrackers in metal barrels.
Oh, I'm not stupid - I KNOW they're all fireworks, bottle rockets, fire crackers, and other bullshit like that. But that doesn't stop my mind from going there, every single time. Once a Soldier, always a Soldier. I hide it deeper than I used to, but don't ever kid yourself and believe that the Soldier is gone.
I loved many aspects of my time in the service. I have personal reasons why I actually want to go back... because I believe I could still make a difference. I miss my guys. I don't miss the politics, but I miss my unit. We did some good stuff. I can't go back - injury, medical situation, sexual orientation. Yeah. That. But underneath the bouncy, cheerful, perpetually energetic exterior, there's another layer. And on the 4th of July every year, the Soldier comes back out to visit... just not always in the way you might think.
Just... do me a favor, guys. This year, when you pack a picnic lunch and go down to see the fireworks display... think about what I said. Just spend a couple of minutes thinking about the difference between patriotism and false-patriotism. Ask yourself what sort of country you want for the future. And maybe... consider not setting off fireworks in your neighborhoods. There's a chance that the veteran you thanked earlier that day is lying in bed, trying to sleep, and is reliving memories they'd rather not relive with every explosion.
And now... the real meaning of Independence Day. I may be busy on the 4th, and not around to actually post this. So, I'm posting it now. I present to you the full text of the Declaration of Independence:
( We hold these truths to be self-evident... )
IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America
hen in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.