I have a simple idea for Veteran’s Day. Can we all please stop using the phrase ‘boots on the ground’, especially if you’re in the government or what passes for news organizations these days. Just stop it. Right now. Because we aren’t fighting wars with fucking footwear. We’re fighting them with young men and women.
There’s a simple, sad fact about war: People die and lives are changed. Young people, American kids, sons and daughters, husbands and wives. Not to mention all the poor sods who happen to live on whatever ground our boots are landing on. Human beings killed and maimed. That’s reality, but no one wants to think about that. They’d rather talk about fucking shoes. This simple obfuscation allows cranky old men to get away with all kinds of chicanery and lets us to pretend it isn’t our fault.
Look at how the answer changes when you ask the following question differently: Is this situation worth boots on the ground? Is this situation worth the young dad at the end of the block getting his legs blown off? Only one of those questions gets asked and only one of those questions is real. Now go watch the news and see which one they’re discussing. I remember Vietnam. I remember the pictures and names of the dead scrolling during the news. The young faces and the crying family members. Have you seen any of those lately? Why not? Would you watch?
Euphemisms are very powerful. They allow the government to do things without the voters ever having to take responsibility for their decisions. They let us pretend that we don’t have blood on our hands and that what happens to soldiers isn’t our fault. It’s so much easier to send a few ‘heroes’ to a ball game than it is to wonder if their incredible sacrifice was worth a single fucking thing.
‘Boots on the ground’ could just be the beginning. Instead of ‘collateral damage’ or ‘acceptable losses’ we could start saying ‘blown up mothers and children’. ‘American casualties’ would be more honestly called ‘dead neighbors’. ‘Unserved VA patients’ more correctly named ‘sick people crippled by decisions we made but won’t help to heal’. ‘Homeless or unemployed Vets’ reported now as ‘personal debts that we’re too selfish to pay’. Sure, they’re not as catchy, but they do have the advantage of being true.
It’d be easy to read this piece and just dismiss me as some stupid hippie peace freak but that’s just another way for you to pretend it isn’t your fault. Or you could take a cowards way out and just blame the other political party. The real responsibility lies in ourselves, the people we elect, the policies we let pass, the atrocities done in our name. ‘Freedom’ doesn’t bomb wedding parties or bring home PTSD scarred teenagers, we do. And we can’t change it until we stop hiding behind shitty phrases like ‘boots on the ground’.
I’m no pacifist. There are times for wars. But you’d better be fucking sure that there’s no other choice and that winning would mean a much better world. I’m not sure there’s a war we’ve been in since WW2 that stacks up to these criteria and that’s very sad. So, no more euphemisms. Let’s at least try to face reality and ignore the politicians and media outlets that won’t. Our soldiers are brave and selfless. They’ve sacrificed much but it might have been for our complacency rather than our freedom. They deserve our respect, but after a little thought you might want to say “I’m sorry” or “How an I help” rather than “Thank you”. Saor Alba, Vaya con Dios and Viva la Revolucion.