Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A Pacifist's Take on Veterans' Rights

Have you ever been involved in a really important conversation on your cell phone and suddenly realize you are just talking to the phone? When the call dropped the only one listening to what you said was you. There is a huge disconnect in this country going on everyday but it can't be blamed on cell phones. It happens because when veterans finally talk, few are listening, even less want to do something about it and even less try to.

This is a great article from a student at Princeton talking about what is happening when veterans are just not part of the conversation.

A Pacifist's Take on Veterans' Rights
Huffington Post
Nick Sexton Student, Princeton University
Posted: 11/24/2013

I spent my fall break in our nation's capital, sponsored by Princeton's Pace Center for Civic Engagement, visiting congressional lobbies, vocational employment centers, and the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where I saw, firsthand, those who had experienced the casualties of war. Eating in the hospital cafeteria, I sat among masses of amputees, the people who actually comprise the looming, abstract statistics we hear always on the news.

These are the people we half-acknowledge. We hear about soldiers who get maimed, who are sidelined by our legal system, who fall through the cracks and end up living on the street. But we sigh, mutter "what a shame," and then generally move on with our lives. This is largely due to the manner in which the wars of the 21st century have been waged. The Iraq and Afghanistan Wars are extremely different from the Vietnam War and World War II, in the crucial fact that they have not depended on a draft to fill the ranks; as such, they have directly engaged a much smaller percentage of the population. Throughout the week in Washington D.C., the thing that we heard over and over is that the American public does not pay attention to veterans, that there is a dearth of dialogue, because the issues that plague veterans are often deemed irrelevant by the average American.

I believe that this stance is wholly inconsistent with a humanitarian mindset. The moral principle that should compel us to care about veterans, even if no one in our families has ever been affiliated with the military, is the same one that underscores how white people need to care about racism, men need to care about sexism, and straight people need to care about LGBT rights.

I am writing this on November 12, the day after Veterans Day. Yesterday, Princeton's campus was quiet. A small slam poetry gathering and a service in the university chapel -- attended almost exclusively by ROTC members -- were all that set it apart from any other day. I heard no conversations about veterans. I asked a good deal of friends and acquaintances if they knew what holiday it was, and a considerable portion of them had no clue. This lack of on-campus attention to veterans reflects our nation's greater apathy about the rights of members of our armed forces.
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