♪ Well I was smashing rock in the burning sun
Ninety-nine years and my work ain’t done
Lift a nine-pound hammer high above my head
Swing it on down like a ton of lead
If I get out I won’t have much
I’ll keep searching for the magic touch
That’s all I need
I’ve got to find the magic touch ♪
— “Magic Touch,” The Plimsouls
Take it from the Valley Girl bar band, 99 years after the general ceasefire that began the end of the War to End All Wars, we lack the magic touch to prevent battle deaths, combat casualties, and the social and economic upheavals of armed conflict. Even though social science tells a convincing story about an unprecedented low in violent deaths across the globe, statistics offer no succor to anyone on the pointy part of a knife’s blade. Or their friends and families.
“Happy” Veterans Day, Remembrance Day, Armistice de la Première Guerre mondiale, or Hitler Decides to Apply to Art School Day.* No matter what your native-language calendar calls it, you and your fellow countryfolk should take time on November 11 to reflect on the intractable bellicosity of nation-states and identity groups. Think not only of sacrifice and bravery, but also of suffering and solutions.
Politicados outside the United States may find it tragically comic to learn that the principal means of marking the Eleventh Hour of the Eleventh Day of the Eleventh Month has here become offering free fast-casual lunches to military veterans. Lose a limb in Laos? Enjoy this lamb burger from Lubby’s.** Persistent PTSD from paramilitarism in Panama? Chomp this Panera pita. Middle East respiratory syndrome from deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan? Finish up with this angel food cake from Applebee’s.
At no time does any person with responsibility and inclination for formulating and executing U.S. defense policy pause to ponder making fewer veterans. Having grown up a Navy brat with a father who spent every single day of the post-1963 Vietnam War on active duty, your humble WPT host has long believed that the greatest honor any country can accord its men and women under arms takes the form of not exposing them to bullets, bombs, missiles, and other weapons and sundry.
He will spare you the litany of fully realistic fringe benefits from disarming domestic and foreign policy, but cannot resist highlighting three:
- Increased rates of co-parenting and reduced rates of divorce from limiting deployments
- Untold reductions in environmental damage from grounding and docking fossil fuel-guzzling machines, and
- Redirecting current Armed Forces payroll to funding pensions and lifelong health care.
The country would also need to spend less time reconciling the cognitive dissonance of justly awing the practically inhuman feats of Medal of Honor recipients with the moral bankruptcy of Marine drill sergeants who drive Muslim recruits to suicide.
You likely have other concerns and cavils this first really cold weekend of Fall 2017 along America’s East Coast. Share them.
*Auf Deutsch, “Der Tag, an dem Hitler beschließt sich zu bewerben für die Kunsthochschule.“ [h/t ChocolateCate].
**Obscurest and most off-point civilian-on-civilian American mass shooting reference ever? Nailed it.