Friday, March 29, 2013

A little perspective


Just a bumper sticker on the back of someone’s pickup, but what a slap in the face. It’s meant to be, too, as the language is carefully crafted to make you feel like absolute crap if you happen to disagree with the sentiment.

Ignore the fact that the sticker is on an adult’s vehicle while the words are clearly intended to be spoken by a child (outside of the “Dukes of Hazard,” not too many grown-ups driving pick-up trucks call their fathers “daddy”). YOUR daddy fights for MY freedom. Why isn’t he fighting for YOUR freedom, too, buddy? Doesn’t he love you enough? The slogan could have easily, and more sensibly, said “our freedom,” using language of inclusion to join us all together on the same side. Instead we’re left to imagine some lonely child, separated from his dad by Pop’s noble duty to protect US. We’re to blame, you see, because we demand freedom, and this kid’s dad has to answer the call. Not for HIS child, oh no, but for US. Such a sacrifice.

Who is this guy? Jesus?

And how is he fighting for freedom at all? If he’s Canadian, at best he can be fighting for Afghanistan’s freedom, but I don’t think the bumper sticker on a Manitoba vehicle is meant for an Afghan audience. Our soldiers are fighting for the interests of our government. They are an arm of policy for the national government, no more. No Canadian soldier has fought to protect Canadian freedom since the War of 1812. That was the only time a foreign power invaded our own soil. Is bumper-sticker-daddy 200+ years old? Even in WW2, which many will say was a justified war against naked aggression, our soldiers ended up protecting European freedom. I’m sure they appreciated it, but the only Canadians protected in that war weren’t currently living here.

Since 9/11, humans are no longer allowed to publicly deride the military. Why not? Sure, the military can do some good, but when you consider the ultimate purpose of training with automatic weapons isn’t defensive, no matter what we call our governmental departments, why do we insist on giving the career such a noble cloak? It’s a maxim that the best defense is a good offense, but if you examine that statement, it basically means kill anyone that looks like they might want to smack you. Hurt them before they hurt us. Such is the nature of military. Any time they’ve been used for other purposes (peacekeeping, infrastructure support, what have you), it’s wasting the vast majority of their training. You don’t practice taking and holding hostile enemy buildings with weapons capable of turning humans into hamburger so that Starbucks can move in.

Is it because soldiers face death? It can’t be, as military deaths aren’t necessarily higher than civilian, depending on the job. Cops and firefighters have a mortality rate of around 16 per 100 000. Farmers suffer a 37 in 100 000 death rate, loggers 87, and fisheries a whopping 147! This is just in the normal course of doing business.

Compare this to the modern North American military. In 2006, during the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, the US Military suffered a 136 per 100 000 mortality rate. Yup, that’s high, but working a fish boat is still deadlier. Bear in mind, that’s during wartime. Compare it to a relatively quiet year, like 2000. There it drops to 55 per 100 000, between farmers and loggers.

(I’m using US figures, as they are a lot easier to find. Thank you, American bureaucracy!)

Are the working conditions of the armed forces that much worse than other professions? I’d hazard to say sometimes yes, but most times “no.” You aren’t on the front-lines every day, or for even a sizable fraction of a 20 year career. Don’t they say military life is hours of boredom and seconds of terror? Or is the manner of death the crucial factor? But I ask you, is being blown up or shot worse than being drowned? All three sound horrifying.

None of this is to say we should deride our military personnel. It can be hard work, particularly for the wrong person. It isn’t a job I’d want (or be any good at). But then, after seeing the mortality stats, neither is logger or fisherman.

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