I read the news every morning on WRAL.com. They have comment sections on all of the stories, and while some of the responses are insightful, oftentimes I find myself just shaking my head at the ludicrous things people will say. Of course, there are always the ones who will turn pretty much any topic into why Obama is a Muslim terrorist who couldn’t be a citizen if he tried. Those, I just sigh and ignore.
But sometimes, I do find myself getting into verbal sparring matches with people, and then I wonder why I allow it to get to me. Sometimes it’s about topics that might raise my ire, such as physical punishment (especially in schools), and sometimes it’s just kind of fun to poke fun at the twits who cannot manage to construct a coherent sentence, much less a solid argumentative position. Today though, I argued with these two guys about an issue that was so, so emotional for them. I feel like they couldn’t separate emotion from reason, no matter how I explained it; that was frustrating to me because they think I’m some sort of monster who hates military veterans, and that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Here’s the background:
This story was published a while back on WRAL’s website: http://www.wral.com/news/local/wral_investigates/story/8419558/
This guy defrauded the government for money and benefits and I’m the first one to agree with the outraged veterans. Nail the jerk!
But then, today, this story was published:
The basic gist is that the Supreme Court is trying to decide if it should, indeed, be a criminal act to assert that you have won a military medal. Opponents of this say that it violates free speech rights, so long as no monetary fraud is committed. I agree with this position.
Now, let me be clear. I have a few people in my life that I care about who are either currently serving, or have served in the past. And whatever my own philosophical issues with the military itself and how its run, my admiration and respect for veterans has never ever wavered, and never will. Claiming to be a war hero is morally and ethically reprehensible, and is one of the most disrespectful and insulting things for a veteran who actually did risk his or her life serving our country.
There’s always that “but,” right?
The simple fact is that as disgusted as I would be with someone who told me he or she had been injured in combat, for example and then found later to have lied, merely saying it is not, and should not be a criminal act. And we aren’t talking “slap on the wrist” criminal act, either. The current statute holds a penalty of up to a full year in prison. Seriously? People are found guilty of misdemeanor death by motor vehicle, meaning that someone is dead because of their actions, and they don’t get that kind of sentence.
Can you see my disconnect here?
I asserted that this would make a veteran’s life worth more than a civilian and was quickly told, “That’s right! It is!” Um. NO. It’s not. Remember several years ago when African American’s lives were held to be worth 3/5th of a white people’s lives? That’s where you’re headed with that argument. The person yelling at me at that point had a husband and son who were military men. I told her that I respected both of them, but that the Scientist, for example, had a medical condition that prohibited him from entering the Air Force. That does not, by any stretch of the imagination, make her husband’s life more valuable than mine. My son is a pacifist. Her son’s life is not worth more than my son’s life simply because he chose the path he did.
Of course, I was also told that I wouldn’t think they way I do if I had actually served. That one, quite frankly, got an eyeroll and a smart-ass remark back. Because of course I don’t have a right to speak on this topic! Just like anyone of you who isn’t a parent? You have no right to speak on any topic dealing with children. You just wouldn’t understand, don’t’cha know?
The biggest argument tossed in my direction is that it’s an honor and a privilege to wear the uniform, and that it deserves appropriate respect. At no point do I disagree with this. However, where do we draw the line? Because while I have friends who served in the military, I also have several dear friends who are police officers. If a guy buys a beer for a hot chick and tells her, “Sure, baby, I’m in the police academy!” should his tail be tossed in the clink for a year? I also know several firefighters. They too, lay their lives on the line every single day. Do we need to ban FDNY shirts? Because really, how do you know who is saying that they work there, and who isn’t? And should that same guy be prosecuted if he replaced “police academy” with “firefighter academy?” If not, why not?
And then we could move on to ambulance drivers. These guys haul tail through dangerous traffic at high speeds to save lives. Are we going to criminalize anyone who claims to be an EMT?
I just feel that once we start this process, it takes the already slippery slope of “free speech” and adds a gallon or so of grease to it. When we start attaching the value of a life to a career choice, what do we say about other people? And really, who then makes the determination of what job qualifies? The can of worms, once opened, wouldn’t be able to be shut ever again.
Let me reiterate, please: people in the jobs I mentioned above have my gratitude each and every day, not to mention my respect and admiration, especially when I have a physically disability that prevents me from ever being able to join their ranks. Misrepresenting yourself as someone who has achieved that level of performance is, indeed, wrong. But unless some kind of fraud or physical harm is committed, it just isn’t a criminal offense.