At the suggestion of a close friend, I spent the afternoon in Corvallis standing as a barrier around a funeral. This barrier was deemed necessary because The Westboro Baptist Church had planned to “peacefully preach” outside this funeral, in their infamous fashion. In order to shield those that were mourning, a couple thousand people gathered near the southern end of the Oregon State University campus, and crowded out the members of the WBC. In fact, I never saw anyone from the church. Apparently they were around, but were denied any real attention.
I detest the Westboro Baptist Church. While I acknowledge their right to hold signs and preach their beliefs, I find their tactics abhorrent and their message sickening. Their primary message is one of hate. Their primary agenda is to bring misery to their targets and to any who witness their antics.
The funeral this afternoon happened to be a memorial for a fallen soldier. Soldier’s funerals are a common target for WBC’s hate rallies. I have to say, though, that did not factor into my decision to attend the rally. I saw an opportunity to oppose hate with unity and compassion, and that was my agenda.
To me, serving in the military does not make someone praise-worthy. It certainly does not automatically qualify a person as a hero. This mentality, that anyone who serves in the military is granted a special status, is a product of an extreme form of blind patriotism that I find distasteful. Do not misconstrue my meaning; some in the military perform exemplary acts, are extraordinary people; many who serve face extreme dangers, frequently, and repeatedly. They are certainly courageous individuals.
Bravery is not the reason we “honor those who serve” though. We are supposed to keep soldiers in high regard because they are “protecting us and our freedoms.” For most of the military, though, this is just not true. Really, my freedoms are in more danger here at home than anyplace we have soldiers actively engaged.
The purpose of a military and its soldiers is war. And war does not protect me, it endangers me. Those who join the military are employees of the Federal Government. They serve the Federal Government and it’s concerns, which usually have more to do with economic interests than personal freedoms. I do not disdain members of the military. Neither do they earn my respect based solely on that membership.
Blind praise of soldiers is part of this culture of blind patriotism. I will not support anything blindly, especially not a bloated bureaucracy that necessarily must be more concerned with self-perpetuation than with those it governs.