The new cult of the uniform began with the call to "support our troops" during the Iraq war. The slogan played on a justified collective desire to avoid repeating the mistake of the Vietnam era, when hatred of the conflict spilled over into hostility toward the people who were fighting it. Now the logic was inverted: supporting the troops, we were given to understand, meant that you had to support the war. In fact, that’s all it seemed to mean. The ploy was a bait and switch, an act of emotional blackmail. If you opposed the war or questioned the way it was conducted, you undermined our troops.
As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have dragged on, other purposes have come into play. The greater the sacrifice that has fallen on one small group of people, the members of the military and their families, the more we have gone from supporting our troops to putting them on a pedestal. In the Second World War, everybody fought. Soldiers were not remote figures to most of us; they were us. Now, instead of sharing the burden, we sentimentalize it. It’s a lot easier to idealize the people who are fighting than it is to send your kid to join them. This is also a form of service, I suppose: lip service. [my ems]
The collective American mind has turned to mush. We have become intellectually lazy about the things that affect us most. We are gulled by slogan and untruths, and given icons to worship so we don't look deeper. We've been told that as long as we support the government and its policies - and its wars - our responsibility ends.
Those of us who remember Vietnam know the paranoia families felt when their 18 year old had to go get his draft card, wondering if his number will come up, wondering if their child would go to Southeast Asia and come back missing part of his body or mind, or not come back at all. This was, of course, true only for those who weren't rich enough, or their child not smart enough, to get into college. I grew up in a blue collar community (it's where I live now and it's still a blue collar community) and almost every family around here had a son who was drafted. It was like that in the grocery store or the mall when you ran into a neighbor: "How's Johnny doing over there?" or "We're so sorry to hear about Timmy." That was shared sacrifice. At least, when you were sent to war, back then, you did your tour and came home. The Vietnam draftees weren't run through the meat grinder time after time, year after year, for a decade.
Now, we have a small group of American families paying the price for another shitbag war(s) while these lazy assholes sit on the couch watching football or NASCAR, thinking their service to the country is done by shaking the hand of a returning vet. They think they've done their patriotic duty by cheerleading the wars and "supporting the troops" ... well, at least until they come home disabled or deranged. How many of the "kill the ragheads" crowd volunteer at their local VA hospital? How many go and help a military family who are having trouble making ends meet? Odds are, that falls on other military families and the military community.
No, for most Americans, "patriotism" is a concept that ends when it involves breaking a sweat. Part of the answer to fixing this country is a draft, no exceptions. If you physically can't serve by carrying a rifle, then you'll do something else of service to the country in the civilian sector. Betcha we wouldn't be in 10 year wars anymore. Betcha Americans would pay a little more attention when some idiot politician says we have to go to war for some vague reason. Maybe we wouldn't be so gung ho to send other peoples' kids to war. Maybe we'd realize that waving the flag and military flyovers aren't a measure of patriotism (Are you listening, NASCAR?).
Patriotism means you're involved in your country. It means thinking for yourself, not believing politicians who question your patriotism if you disagree. It means realizing that bullshit never fixed anything.