So here we are at Veteran’s Day again, which I don’t recall ever celebrating when I was growing up. It’s quite possible that we did in school, but I never identified with it.
You see, my Mom’s family were all Mennonites, and therefore conscientious objectors. In fact, her ancestors originally left Germany to go to Russia, and then left Russia to come to the USA, to avoid conscription. My dad, whose parents were Swiss and Norwegian immigrants, was a seminary student during WWII, so he was exempt from the military. He did teach at Southwestern Military Academy for a while in the old days, something that he shook his head over for many years afterwards.
My brothers were of the age to be drafted during the Vietnam War, but one went to seminary, and the other was not accepted due to having flat feet. They both spent lots of time helping other people avoid the draft, and my first memories about the Vietnam War were being taken to anti-war protests by my brothers as a seven year old. I do have to admit that my parents took a dim view of this, but the boys were babysitting me at the time, so it seemed to them like the thing to do. I found it a bit tiresome, but never forgot the experience.
Later on, I’m proud to say, my older brother organized anti-war protests in Berkeley. He’s in the hospital right now with MS, not doing well at all, but if I get a chance I’ll try to get some of his stories on record. He used to go out target shooting with some of the big names in the anti-war movement just to mess with the minds of the FBI agents who were keeping track of them.
As a result of all this, I grew up to be anti-war, suspicious of cops, the National Guard, and the military. My parents were the liberals in our church (Methodist), and possibly the only Democrats. In high school, I well remember being awfully shocked when my best friend dated someone in ROTC. And went to the ROTC ball with him. I thought she should have known better. I do realize that this sounds extreme, but this was high school, and I thought she might have crossed over to the dark side.
I’ve flip-flopped on my beliefs a bunch of times during my life. I spent a lot of years being a conservative married to an ex-Marine, too. It seemed odd to me, because of my own background, that I was okay with his experience. Now, I sort of marvel at that, like my dad used to marvel at having taught in a military academy. But with age, I no longer think I can’t change. I realize that beliefs are fluid, not static. If you try to talk me into something, I won’t listen very carefully unless the beliefs I’m entertaining at the moment don’t seem to be working well. I seem to lean towards what makes sense at the time, but I’m willing to discard it if it quits working for me.
If I were religious and needed a church, I’d have to look at the Mennonites long and hard because of their pacifism and dedication to service to those in need. So I really wonder how much of my beliefs are just there because it’s what I grew up with. I also doubt that I’m here to convince anyone else that I’m right. I don’t believe any of it is important except to my own personal spiritual growth.
I decided to put these thoughts out there today, not to disparage the military or people who found it necessary to fight in wars, but just to show you an alternative point of view. My pride is in my brothers and other people I know who are anti-war and anti-military. Sometimes people get caught up in their celebrations and honoring of veterans and forget that there are other ways of looking at this kind of patriotism.
Every once in a while I throw something out on Facebook just to see people squirm and get defensive and call names. Usually I take it down afterwards because I’m a chicken. But tonight I put this link up, and I’m going to put it here, too, just so those of you who are finished thanking everyone for their service can see another point of view. I don’t think personal growth can happen without considering alternative views.
Fred on Everything
I also enjoyed reading The Honest Courtesan’s take on the Marines in a post from last year at this time. Maggie loves the Marines.
http://maggiemcneill.wordpress.com/2011/11/10/semper-fidelis/. Now there’s a point of view I’ll be you’ve never considered.