Following World War II, the Korea War and Vietnam, when our soldiers returned home, they tried to resume their previous lives as quickly as possible. Despite their often heroic acts, many declined recognition. Many refused to talk about their experiences…not even with friends, neighbors and families. In part, it was because they did not want to relive old memories. And, in part, it was out of a sense of modesty, knowing that many others had done the same things…many of whom were not able to return home.
During the fifties, sixties and seventies, there were a spate of war movies celebrating our military accomplishments with actors such as John Wayne and Audie Murphy, an actual war hero. There were also movies, television shows and cartoons such as Beetle Bailey, Sergeant Bilko, Gomer Pyle and M.A.S.H. that poked fun at the military. There was no outrage at these comedies. No media-driven attacks on the actors and creators. Yet in today’s “Thank you for your service” culture which pays minimal tribute to service members without true understanding or compassion for what they’ve endured, the same things would spark outrage. For an example, you need look no further than the largest-grossing movie of the year, American Sniper. Those who have pointed out the inaccuracies and the propagandist tone of the movie have been pilloried in the media. And those who have dared to crack jokes about it have been vilified.
Why the difference?
The difference certainly does not lie in the number of casualties suffered in the wars. Far more servicemen and women died in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. It’s not a difference in the level of hardships faced. Soldiers and their families face hardships in every war. I believe the difference is that, prior to the Gulf War, the Afghan War and the Iraq War, most of our nation’s seemingly endless series of wars were fought by citizen soldiers. Those who either truly feared for our nation’s future or were conscripted to serve. For them, war was not a profession. It was, instead, an interruption…a gut-wrenching, life-changing, potentially fatal interference with their lives. It was hell.
They did not aspire to see how many kills they could record. They did not live for the adrenalin rush. Few wrote books about their exploits, and most who did wrote them years later in an attempt to come to grips with the demons implanted in their minds as a result of their service. They simply wanted to survive; to do their jobs and come home to their families.
The truth is, those who have launched vicious attacks in the media and on social media against those who have criticized American Sniper, the CIA torture program, the unjustified and unnecessary invasion of Iraq, the wasteful military-industrial complex, and the media-driven paranoia of those who pray and look differently are no less terrorists than the delusional zealots who detonate a suicide vest in the middle of a crowd of peace-loving civilians. Those who try to shout down the critics of war and threaten people of other faiths are themselves resorting to a form of terrorism. They may not be as violent, but they share goals similar to those of the jihadists who behead non-combatants. They want to frighten those with whom they disagree to change their beliefs and/or their behavior.
As Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wisely noted, terroristic acts such as those committed by zealots in Paris, Nigeria, Iraq, Syria, Gaza, Israel and the US were not acts of religion. They were acts of politics. Such murders do not represent the true faiths of Islam, Judaism or Christianity. Indeed, they are contrary to the teachings of all faiths. Acts of terrorism done in the name of any religion are merely the acts of political bullies who refuse to accept or coexist with anyone who seems different from them…anyone who prays differently; who dresses differently; who speaks a different language; who has a different skin color; or who even has a conflicting view of a war movie.