I’ve said it before, but if we can take a step back and look at how conservatives have had to adjust their belief system because of the tumultuous nature of everything happening under the Trump administration, it’s fascinating to watch right-wingers turn their backs on all the things they’re supposed to love. From Jesse Kelly at The Federalist:
If you’ll remember, not too long ago everyone on the right was freaking out because NFL players were taking a knee during the national anthem to protest police brutality. Naturally, the right—tethered to reality the way they are—took that as a protest of the flag, the anthem, America in general, and the military and veterans. “They hate the military!” these fanatics screamed. “They hate our veterans who risked their lives so that they had the RIGHT to protest!”
But as Kelly lays out, that’s suddenly no longer the case:
Most, no matter their service, come home and spend a lifetime as an example of what an American fighting man should be. They give back to their communities. They help others. They join the workforce, show up on time, and rise through the ranks. They raise families. And raise those families to have a love of country and an appreciation for where they are blessed to live.
Others spend a lifetime proving the last great thing they did in this life ended when they got back from Iraq at the ripe old age of 22. Service to your country is respectable. It is NOT a license to be a world-class scumbag.
You see, there are real veterans, and then there are scumbag veterans.
For too long now, veterans have taken the patriotic respect of Americans and used it like a Get Out Of Jail Free card in Monopoly.
I’d be interested to see when this begins on a timeline. After Vietnam? Gulf War? Or is it more specific to the 21st century? I’d also like to know what examples of this behavior Kelly would share and whether they would wholly be composed of individuals Kelly would describe as “leftist.”
Nowhere is this more evident than the veterans who joined high school kids at the anti-gun March For Our Lives rallies last weekend.
Kelly believes that veterans marching in solidarity with high school students who don’t want to be shot at are abusing the “patriotic respect” Americans have for them. Got it.
Which brings us to veterans. There are roughly 20 million veterans living in the United States today. There are going to be malcontents who don’t understand liberty in there. And nobody can track down society’s malcontents like the Left. So, now they use these veterans just like they use the high school kids. It’s not as if the Left holds some special respect for veterans (though they’ve finally stopped spitting on them when they return home from war). It is done because the Left knows patriotic Americans will be reluctant to criticize them.
That last line is key: “It is done because the Left knows patriotic Americans will be reluctant to criticize them.”
Well, Jesse, maybe if the right hadn’t spent decades venerating the military and calling anyone who didn’t blindly “support the troops” a traitor to America—especially in the wake of 9/11 and the run up to the invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan—that wouldn’t be such a big problem. Maybe if publications like The Federalist didn’t run endless propaganda pieces that exalted the political positions of veterans simply because they are veterans—seriously, just take a look through their archives when you search for “veterans”—you wouldn’t have to worry about all these uppity veterans who have ideas diametrically opposed to yours.
Every vet takes an oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States.” That oath doesn’t expire when you leave the service. It doesn’t mean you have to carry a weapon on foreign soil fighting our enemies forever, but at least don’t return home and put the Constitution you swore to uphold through the paper shredder.
The funny part about this is that I imagine most everyone on the left (the actual left, not the capitalism-loving Democrats Kelly is referring to) has never believed service in the military gave them or their opinions on subjects unrelated to combat a special status in society that made them untouchable. It’s largely conservatives, and to some degree (though certainly lesser) liberals, who have created the myth of the uncriticizable veteran.
And that’s what upsets writers like Kelly and others on the right in general: It isn’t that these particular veterans are betraying the Constitution—it’s that the right has for so long claimed veterans, the military, and patriotism as a whole as their own that they can’t stand the idea that members of a group they supposedly own would dare have a dissenting opinion. For people like Kelly, it’s not possible for a veteran to simply have a different point of view, because to have a different point of view is to betray the oath they took to protect the Constitution. They are traitors.