Today is controversial: a very revered American holiday that many of us are reluctant to celebrate because we are so ashamed of America’s wars. Yet we can’t ignore the life stories of those who are conflated with them.
During my life time, which began just after World War II, America has fought many wars and not a single one was justified. I hoped Obama would end some of them, but instead he started new ones. Today, it’s terrifying. The Trump administration has not ended the wars he so vehementally campaigned against, instead supporting Saudi Arabia in its genocide in Yemen. Worse, our Commander-in-Chief has implied he will use nukes.
In my novel, Chasm Gorge, I tell a story of an American president starting still another war. I began writing that many years ago.
Today America’s fighting forces are entirely voluntary (with the subtle distinction that “reserve” soldiers, those who have technically retired or enrolled mostly as home guards, are now being routinely called upon as active troops).
This differs radically from WWII and before, when the bulk of our armies were conscripted from young men. It was a mandated responsibility for young men approaching their third decade to be prepared to serve in the military if called.
The transition to an all-volunteer force was accomplished fairly easily by raising soldier pay and benefits. As America became more of a war fighting country, the rich also become more powerful, the poor parts of society enlarged, and so becoming a soldier became a good job choice.
Much of America’s armies, like ancient Rome’s and Persia’s, are opportunities for the oppressed and downtrodden to break out of an endless cycle of hopelessness. It’s therefore hard to criticize these young people for joining the American military.
The least advantaged are often those who their society takes the greatest advantage of. I morally condemn in the strongest sense America’s recent past and present wars. But my heart goes out to the vast majority of Americans who fought them.
As it does for the countless more that we killed.