Honor veterans by treating them equally

Print Article

Guest commentary:

 

Between 1952 and 1992, every president of the United States was a veteran of World War II. Eisenhower commanded Allied forces in Europe. JFK, LBJ, Nixon and Ford served in the Navy in the Pacific. Jimmy Carter entered the Naval Academy in 1943, graduating too late to see combat. Ronald Reagan joined the U.S. Army Reserve in 1937; due his fame as an actor he was kept out of combat, instead heading up War Bond drives and producing more than 400 training films. George H.W. Bush was the youngest U.S. Navy pilot in the war.

Then the worm turned. In 1992, Bush was defeated by alleged Vietnam draft dodger Bill Clinton, who also defeated wounded World War II vet Bob Dole in 1996. In 2000 and 2004, alleged Air National Guard deserter George W. Bush defeated Vietnam veterans Al Gore and John Kerry. In 2008, Barack Obama defeated Vietnam veteran and former prisoner of war John McCain.

In the two election cycles since then, neither major party has seriously considered nominating a military veteran. Rather odd, since exaltation of the US armed forces and veterans began a resurgence from post-Vietnam lows in 1991 with Desert Storm and has been the de facto national religion since 9/11.

America has a complicated relationship with its veterans. Those of us who served in the military sport a suicide rate more than twice that of the civilian population. We’re 10 percet of the population and 16 percent of the homeless. Apparently we’re a pretty screwed up demographic.  Yet our opinions, especially on politics, enjoy a measure of nearly automatic respect. I often see news stories in which veterans are specifically identified as such to bolster their credibility when they express positions or register complaints (janitors, truck drivers and cooks rarely enjoy such  deference).

This bothers me, in part because it tempts me. Anecdotally, it seems to me that veterans are over-represented in my own political ponds, the libertarian movement and the Libertarian Party. It’s tempting to assume that that’s because, like me, many other veterans see how wasteful and deadly big government can be and perhaps want to do penance for the body counts we’ve contributed to. But then there are lots of veterans who ardently support big government as well. What gives?

The temptation to ascribe special status to the opinions of veterans is something I think we should resist. Opinions may be right or they may be wrong. That the person expressing them once wore a uniform and collected a government paycheck doesn’t, at least in cases not directly related to military matters, seem like a good indicator of which.

If you really want to honor veterans, treat us like you treat everyone else. That means requiring us to prove, rather than merely assert, our political arguments.

 

Tom Knapp is director of the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism

Print Article

Read More Local News

Local after school programs brace for budget cuts

March 24, 2017 at 1:56 pm | Western News The Federal government’s new budget proposal would cut funding to after school programs financed through 21st century grants, which come under an umbrella grant program called Community Development B...

Comments

Read More

City Council member resigns

March 24, 2017 at 1:56 pm | Western News During the city council meeting on Monday, Libby Mayor Brent Teske announced that Janelle Campbell, who’s served on the Libby City Council for almost six months, will be resigning. Campbell, who fil...

Comments

Read More

Board of Health forms committee of superfund cleanup liaisons

March 24, 2017 at 1:55 pm | Western News Two members of the Libby City-County Board of Health have been appointed to be Focus Area Liaisons for both Libby Superfund Sites including the Libby Asbestos Superfund Site, according to a press rel...

Comments

Read More

March showers bring flood threats

March 21, 2017 at 12:53 pm | Western News After a snow-packed winter, the recent rise in temperatures had residents bracing for the inevitable. As spring arrives, flooding is expected in Libby. Some homes received minor damages, and wate...

Comments

Read More

X