Memorial Day brings a long weekend of big sales, beaches, barbecues, and also a time to remember the men and women who have died serving in the United States military. While America is divided on the use of American military might, we should all be united in commemorating the men and women who have died serving in the military, as well as in supporting those who serve currently and have served in the past. A military and plan of defense is an essential aspect of a state and those who serve undeniably play a very important role in society. They should never be criticized for their individual decision to join the armed forces.
Yet, the men and women that serve in the military are very much distinct from the actions of the military. Rather, in our representative democracy, the policy which shapes those actions is created by elected and appointed officials. Therefore, while it may be our patriotic duty to "support our troops," it is equally our patriotic duty to question and criticize the use of our military, as we should of all federal institutions. A democracy depends on the diligence of its citizens and diligence requires questioning and criticism, whether it's of the military or otherwise.
If you are still caught up on the seeming hypocrisy of your patriotic duty to both support the men and women who serve in the military and also criticize the military, Theodore Roosevelt surprisingly may be able to put it more clearly. While he is talking about the president and more generally about "public office" it also applies specifically to the military:
"Patriotism means to stand by the country...it is unpatriotic not to oppose [the military] to the exact extent that by inefficiency or otherwise [it] fails in [its] duty to stand by the country."
So amid your shopping sprees, beach trips, and burgers, be sure to take a the time this Memorial Day to reflect on the men and women who have died serving in our military. Be sure to reflect on the actions you can take as a citizen to ensure that they have not died in vain, or for a cause which does not truly represent what it means to be American.
I leave you with the words of John F Kennedy:
"I look forward to a great future for America - a future in which our country will match its military strength with our moral restraint, its wealth with our wisdom, its power with purpose."
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